Wound-up waste paper merchant RRS London Waste Papers has been sentenced after health and safety breaches resulted in the death of one of its employees.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court recently heard how a male worker at the company, which was placed into creditors’ voluntary liquidation in February this year, was found dead inside the compaction chamber of a baling machine on 27 March 2017, after suffering fatal crush injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that the worker had fallen down the loading hopper into the compaction chamber of a baling machine.
The HSE said he was most likely attempting to clear a blockage and that falling into the chamber initiated the compaction sequence.
The investigation found that this could have been prevented had the business devised and instructed workers on a safe method for clearing machine blockages.
Climbing up the baler to clear machine blockages exposed workers to the risk of falling a significant distance either into the compaction chamber or the surrounding concrete floor, the HSE said.
RRS London Waste Papers, of Manor Road, Erith, was found guilty of breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,639.77 and a victim surcharge of £170.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Nicholas Wright said: “This tragic incident, which led to the avoidable death of a father, was easily preventable and the risk should have been identified.
“Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery. Maintenance work should only be carried out when the piece of equipment is isolated and confirmed safe.
“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Serving clients including printers and print finishers, packaging companies, wholesalers and supermarkets, RRS London bought and sold waste paper from around the local area before placing it into the recycling industry in the UK market as well as exporting to the Far East.
Stewart Bennett of ST Bennett & Co, who was appointed as RRS London’s insolvency practitioner on 9 February this year, told letsrecycle.com that it was not possible that the company could have paid the fine as it was heavily insolvent.
“I understand why [the HSE] pushed forward with proceedings, as they need to be seen to be doing something, but there was no merit in this case right from the beginning, as there was no way the company could pay,” he said.