Wood recycling firm R Plevin & Sons has been fined £216,000 for safety breaches after a worker was killed when he fell four metres from a walking floor trailer in South Yorkshire while manually un-sheeting the unit.
At Sheffield Crown Court on Monday (13 November), the company pleaded guilty to breach health and safety regulation and was also ordered to pay costs after the incident at its Hazlewood site, Sheffield in June 2014. Paul Littlewood died from his injuries following the incident.
The company this week said that the death was a “deep sadness” to the business and its thoughts were with Mr Littlewood’s family.
The Health and Safety Executive reported that the fatality occurred in an incident involving the trailer. It stated: “The trailer access to the work platform located at the front was protected by a single manually fastened wire rope. The rope is normally fastened to a vertical post with a carabiner. At the time of the incident, which took place on 30 June 2014 the wire rope was hanging loose and the access point was unprotected.”
The court heard that R Plevin & Sons Ltd had not carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment for sheeting and un-sheeting trailers. No automatic sheeting was used and the protection provided was inadequate to protect workers from the risk of falls, explained the HSE which prosecuted the company over the incident.
At the court, noted the HSE, “R Plevin & Sons Ltd of Cheshire Street Mossley Ashton Under Lyne Lancashire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 3 (1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined £216,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,266.54.”
After the hearing, HSE inspector Tim Johnson commented: “The incident could have easily been prevented by providing either automatic sheeting or self-closing gates similar to those at the access point on Mobile Elevated Work Platforms, coupled with a double guard rail along the length of the work platform.
“It is a requirement to carry out suitable planning for significant risks such as working at height. The sheeting and un-sheeting of lorry trailers is clearly working at height and the company should have identified the risks and control measures necessary to prevent this fatal accident.”
In a statement after the court hearing, the company said: “Paul Littlewood was a valued and well-respected member of our workforce. His death was a source of great shock and deep sadness to all involved at R Plevin & Sons Ltd and continues to be so. Our thoughts are with his family and we hope that the ruling will bring some amount of closure for them during what has been a very difficult time.”
The company added: “The health and safety of our employees is of paramount importance. As such the company has worked tirelessly to make continual improvements to our operational practices, and to ensure the development of a positive health and safety culture throughout the business.”
In 2014, Plevin’s noted that its Hazlehead, Sheffield site was the largest wood recycling depot in the UK with a bespoke wood recycling plant undergoing the final stages of commissioning.