UPM fined £350k over 2017 mill fatality

UPM has been fined £350,000 after a worker suffered fatal crush injuries when he was struck by a shovel loader at the firm’s recovered-fibre warehouse in Deeside two years ago.

On 6 February 2017, 29-year-old Austin Thomas, an employee of C M Downton (Haulage Contractors), was fatally crushed when he was struck from behind by a Volvo shovel loader while working at UPM’s Shotton paper mill.

The loader is designed to move waste paper from the floor to the recycling lines inside the warehouse.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was no safe system of work to segregate pedestrians and vehicles and that drivers had limited visibility when driving large shovel loaders.

At Mold Magistrates Court, UPM-Kymmene (UK) pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £350,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,711.90. It was also ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge.

C M Downton (Haulage Contractors) pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was also fined £350,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,613.90 as well as a £170 victim surcharge.

UPM’s Shotton mill is an integrated facility that manufactures recycled newsprint. It encompasses a materials recycling facility, paper machine and a biomass combined heat and power unit.

The accident happened in the recovered paper warehouse on the Deeside Industrial Park, which is used to store paper prior to recycling.

A UPM spokesperson said: “First and foremost, we would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of our colleague, Austin Thomas. We were deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts are still with them.

"We have co-operated with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) throughout the ensuing investigation and fully respect its conclusions.

"At UPM, we take the wellbeing of our people very seriously and are committed to ensuring their continued safety in the workplace. We ensured that the HSE’s findings were acted upon promptly, and, going forward, those changes are thoroughly monitored on a regular basis.”

The accident came just six months after the Shotton mill was lauded for passing the milestone of five years of operation without any lost time accidents.

HSE inspector Mhairi Duffy said: “This death would have been prevented had an effective system for managing workplace transport been in place.

“This is a reminder to all employers to properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risks from moving vehicles in their workplaces.”