Viridor has been fined £650,000 for failing to carry out a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment in relation to the death of a worker at its Milton Keynes MRF in 2016.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching both Health and Safety and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
As well as the fine which was imposed at a hearing 26 October, Viridor was also ordered to pay costs of £34,197.14.
In a statement, the waste management company said the incident had a “profound effect” on the company, and that while the judgment “noted Viridor’s good health and safety record”, the company has taken further steps to increase safety.
According to the HSE, Aylesbury Crown Court heard that in August 2016, a Viridor employee climbed into the top level of the ballistic separator, which sifts through and separates recyclable materials, to clean it.
Whilst the employee, who was identified as 42-year-old Polish-born Rafal Swiadek, was inside the machine, the electrical power supply to the ballistic separator was turned on and the machine subsequently restarted, resulting in the employee being fatally injured.
An investigation by the HSE into the incident found that the company had “failed to identify, via a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, the risks associated with the cleaning and clearing of blockages of machinery”.
According to the HSE, the investigation also found the company had failed to put in place safe systems of work to ensure the safety of workers carrying out the cleaning task.
“There were inadequate guarding measures in place at the top level of the ballistic separators, which created ready access to the dangerous parts of machinery at the time of the incident,” a statement from the body said.
In Viridor’s statement, it said while what happened to the worker cannot be changed, the company will do “everything it can to prevent it happening again.”
“The tragic death of our colleague Rafal Swiadek has had a profound effect on all of us at Viridor and our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends,” the statement said.
It added: “In the judgment, the court noted Viridor’s good health and safety record and its ongoing commitment to raise this to a gold standard which seeks not only to advance the company’s own ambitions in this regard but to raise standards across the industry as a whole.
“We take our health and safety responsibilities very seriously. Nothing is more important than the safety of our people.
“While we cannot change what happened to Rafal, or understand how he came to be in this part of the plant at the time of his death, we must ensure we do everything possible to prevent something like this happening again.
“In addition to a warning alarm and a locking system to manage authorised access, which were already in place, we have installed a physical protective guard to prohibit access to the machinery, as a further precautionary measure.”
Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Emma Page said that “adequate” machine guards isolation procedures and systems of work” must be in place to prevent accidents.