A Lincolnshire-based WEEE recycling firm was fined £100,000 yesterday (February 2) for safety failings, after a worker was struck by a washing machine which fell from a grabber.
Desond Adlington, 48, of Grantham, suffered three fractured vertebrae and a broken rib following the incident at Environcom England Ltd’s Grantham site in April 2013.
Lincoln Crown Court was told that Mr Adlington had been walking back from the canteen and was using the goods-in door, walking down one side of a trailer, when the incident occurred.
A 360-degree rotating grabber machine was operating nearby, lifting white goods earmarked for scrap onto the back of the trailer.
Mr Adlington thought the driver of the grabber had seen him, but the driver continued the loading operations.
A washing machine, weighing 65-80kgs, became detached from the grabber and was thrown over the top of the bulk trailer, striking Mr Adlington several metres away.
Mr Adlington underwent an operation to repair the spinal damage and was required to wear a back brace for more than a year. He is still on pain relief medication and will require further medical interventions for the rest of his life.
Lincoln Crown Court heard how an investigation led by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had uncovered faults with pedestrian routes at the site.
A number of designated pedestrian walkways and entrances had been installed at the site following previous HSE enforcement related to workplace transport.
However, two of the key routes had since been allowed to fall into disrepair and were not being used due to overspill from the firm’s recycling activities.
Improvement Notices were served on Environcom in 2013 – one in relation to a safe system of work for the grabber machine, and the other for effective control, monitoring and review of measures to prevent risks to pedestrians from vehicle movements.
Environcom, which pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, was also ordered to pay £16,286 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Dr David Lefever said: “This incident, which could easily have resulted in Mr Adlington’s death, was entirely preventable had the company maintained the pedestrian walkways previously required by HSE.
“It is vital that pedestrians are separated from the dangers posed by vehicles. The company let the walkways become blocked so pedestrians had to use other routes, including the main vehicle entrance to factory.
“As a result of this, Mr Adlington has needlessly been left with serious injuries which will no doubt affect him for the rest of his life.”
WEEE recycling specialist Environcom processes in excess of 100,000 tonnes of domestic and business electronic waste each year.
In a statetment, the company said that the incident had involved a third party contractor, and that it had worked with HSE to implement new procedures for the safe operation of the business – including tighter supervision to prevent people walking in restricted areas.
An Environcom spokesperson said: “We of course are extremely sorry for Mr Adlington’s position and understand he has received significant injuries. Since the incident we have supported him extensively in every way available to us.
“The accident involved a third party contractor we employed for their specialist expertise and shortly after the incident we ceased using this system of grabber, after consultation with the Health and Safety Executive.”