A waste management firm has been fined a total of £3 million following the deaths of two workers in separate incidents. Michael Atkin and Mark Wheatley died following incidents in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The families of both men say they are devastated after losing their loved ones.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated both incidents and subsequently prosecuted Valencia Waste Management Limited, formerly known as Viridor Waste Management Limited.
Michael, from Wetherby, lost his life while collecting a load of wastepaper bales at Valencia Waste Management Limited’s Grendon Road site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, on 10 October 2019. The 63-year-old, a HGV driver employed by RT Keedwell, had been working at the site with a Valencia Waste Management employee, who was using a forklift truck to load Michael’s lorry with rows of bales. With three rows of bales already loaded on Michael’s lorry, the Valencia employee then attempted to load a fourth row.
However, while loading the fourth row, some bales in the third row were dislodged and fell off the lorry, fatally crushing Michael. It seems Michael had been securing the other bales onto the lorry before he was crushed. Each bale weighed at least 820kg. Janet Atkin, Michael’s partner, said: “Since the loss of Michael, it has left an enormous hole in my life, four years later I’m still traumatised and I don’t sleep well.”
A HSE investigation found it was not custom and practice at Valencia Waste Management Limited’s Earls Barton site for bales to be loaded onto lorries by fork lift truck operators at the same time the lorry driver was strapping bales which had previously been loaded onto the lorry flatbed.
Systems were in place for drivers to remain within their cabs, or in some other safe location away from the loading activity, but this was not adhered to at the time of the incident.
Mark Wheatley died following an incident on 17 January 2020 at the Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon. The 31-year-old, who was from Sutton Coldfield but lived in Teignbridge, Devon, was an agency worker on his second week.
Mark had been using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time, deploying a method called ‘hot swapping’. However, the skips were not compatible, as they were of different dimensions, and fell at an angle onto the back of Mark’s lorry. He then got onto the lorry bed to rectify the situation but the skips overbalanced and fatally struck him.
John and Sue Wheatley, Mark’s parents, arrived at the scene of the incident following a phone call from their son asking for help. Sue said in a statement presented to the court: “Every single night as soon as I close my eyes, I see Mark lying crushed underneath the skip dead or dying. When we arrived at the scene we were held back by the police and so I couldn’t get close to him and couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive. “That image is what I see every single night when I close my eyes and every single morning before I open my eyes. I shouted out to him that we were there. I will never know if he heard that or not.”
Keeley Martin, Mark’s partner, said in her victim personal statement: “To say Mark was my soulmate really is an understatement, he really was the kindest most caring man anyone could have the pleasure of meeting, he made a positive impact on everyone he met. The day he was taken he took a part of me with him, I nor anyone who knew him will ever be the same again.”
A HSE investigation into this incident found Valencia Waste Management Limited had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations meaning that safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented, and skips were not maintained in an efficient state. Furthermore, sizes were not displayed on the skips themselves.
The transport and waste and recycling industries continue to contribute to workplace fatalities, with 21 deaths across the two sectors in 2022/23.
Following the incident on 10 October 2019, Valencia Waste Management Limited, of London Road, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1 million at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court on 6 September 2023.
Following the incident on 17 January 2020, Valencia Waste Management Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £2 million at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court on 6 September 2023.
The company was also ordered to pay combined costs of £21,054.
A haulage company in Wales has been fined £100,000 after a worker fell from a loading bay and died.
The 63-year-old, from Hungary, had been preparing a load of trailers in his lorry ahead of departure from Williams Haulage Limited’s site at Deeside Industrial Estate on 16 March 2020. The load of trailers were due to be delivered to a site in Germany. He was not employed by Williams Haulage.
The man was trying to reach the top of his lorry, with one foot on the loading bay and the other on the back of another lorry. However, he fell approximately 1.25 metres onto the concrete floor below when the adjacent lorry was driven away. He sustained severe head injuries and died at the Royal Stoke University Hospital on 16 May 2020.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into this incident found Williams Haulage had carried out a risk assessment that identified the risk from falls and introduced control measures, but these had not been used in practice. There was a lack of supervision and monitoring by Williams Haulage to check that these control measures were being used by its staff. Additionally, insufficient consideration had been given to visiting drivers, particularly when English is not their first language.
Williams Haulage Limited, of Old Station Road, Cynwyd, Corwen, Clwyd, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £8,400.50 in costs at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 20 September 2023.
A company in Berkshire has been fined £16,000 after putting an employee at risk of exposure to ionising radiation.
A worker at Gemini Technology (Reading) Limited was put at risk of exposure to 500 milliSieverts (mSv) per hour while working on an irradiator at a calibration facility operated by the Ministry of Defence on 7 September 2018. In the UK, the average person is exposed to a dose of 2.7 mSv every year. Doses over 100 mSv can lead to a change in red blood cells. Even small doses of radiation can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer longer term.
Gemini Technology was called to the MOD site on Crescent Road, Gosport, to fix a problem with the irradiator it was the service agent for. A high activity Caesium-137 source had become stuck in an unshielded position within the irradiator during an incident on 6 September 2018. The remediation work undertaken by the Gemini Technology employee the following day involved removing the top of the machine’s shielded housing, raising the radioactive source and manually rotating a carousel which contained a number of radioactive sources.
This put the Gemini Technology employee at risk of exposure to dose rates of up to 500 mSv per hour.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Gemini Technology had been working with ionising radiation for a number of years and is a recognised brand within its industry. However, the firm had not formally consulted a suitable radiation protection adviser, as required under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017. The company had not undertaken suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the work it was carrying out, and subsequently it had not identified and implemented appropriate control measures to manage the risk of exposure to ionising radiation, potentially putting employees at risk.
Gemini Technology (Reading) Limited, of Wellington Industrial Estate, Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood, Reading, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 9(1) of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017. The company was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 towards costs at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on 15 September 2023.
A West Midlands engineering company and its managing director have been fined for failing to protect their workers from welding fume.
Associated Metalmasters Limited and managing director Darren Spittle were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an inspection of the company’s former site at Woodside Industrial Estate, Pedmore Road, Dudley, in October 2021. HSE inspectors found the company had failed to put in place appropriate precautions to control the exposure of mild steel welding fume from metal inert gas (MIG) welding taking place at the site.
A subsequent HSE investigation found Associated Metalmasters Limited had initially complied with two Improvement Notices served by the workplace regulator in 2016 and 2019. The notices required the company to make improvements to its MIG welding process. However, the company failed to sustain its compliance with the notices meaning there was an inadequate control of exposure to welding fume. Darren Spittle, managing director at the company, was in control of the MIG welding process and was aware of the Improvement Notices.
The company could have sustained compliance with the notices by ensuring that industry standard controls for the welding were provided and maintained at the site. These controls would have likely included a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Associated Metalmasters Limited, of Grazebrook Industrial Park, Peartree Lane, Dudley, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £3,896.30 in costs at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on 13 September 2023. Darren James Spittle, of Bright Street, Wollaston, Stourbridge, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was fined £2,000 at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court on 13 September 2023.
Two construction companies have been fined a combined total of £120,000 after a groundworker suffered horrific injuries when heavy drainage pipes fell on top of him. Anthony Pennell was rushed to Royal Stoke University Hospital having sustained several fractures to both sides of his pelvis, as well as a fractured vertebrae and bleed on the spine, following the incident at a site in Fradley Park, Lichfield on 3 September 2019. Mr Pennell, who was 32 at the time, spent nine days in hospital before he was able to be discharged to his home in Cleethorpes.
“I had to sleep downstairs for about five months after the accident and I could only use the downstairs toilet,” he said.
“I had a lot of help from my partner Zoe who was allowed a period of time off work which lasted for the first 14 days after I came home.
“She helped me with washing and changing my clothes. She brought everything that I needed to me because I could only mobilise with difficulty and using two crutches and therefore, I couldn’t carry anything.”
HSE enforcement lawyer Nathan Cook, told Telford Magistrates’ Court how Mr Pennell, an employee of R O Donnell Plant & Civil Ltd, sustained his injuries. The pipes, each weighing around 160 kg, had been suspended on the forks of a telehandler while being moved to a different area of the site.
Although one pack of pipes had already been transported safely, the incident happened while moving a second load. When the telehandler came to a stop, Mr Pennell tried to re-position a dangling skid so that the pack could be lowered properly. However, at this point, the load fell on top of him.
Four years on, the 37-year-old has not been able to resume his job as a groundworker, and is instead only able to work as a landscaper, which pays him less.
“I continue to have pain in my right leg,” he said. “I am no longer as strong as I was and can no longer carry out heavy manual activities.
“I will always be at a disadvantage in the labour market, and cannot see how I could get a job again where I would earn the money that I was earning as a groundworker.”
An investigation by HSE found that both Mr Pennell’s employer and the principal contractor (Readie Construction Ltd) failed to ensure that the operation was properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner. The investigation also identified issues in relation to the level of knowledge and experience of those involved in the lifting operations, and in the companies’ overall management and coordination of the telehandler usage between contractors.
R O Donnell Plant & Civil Ltd, of New Road, Worlaby, Brigg, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to breaching 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,784.
A manufacturing company in West Yorkshire has been fined £200,000 after workers were injured by an explosion. Three workers at Weir Minerals Europe Limited sustained burns while operating a furnace at the firm’s site on Halifax Road in Todmorden on 25 February 2020.
They had been melting a large amount of steel before an explosion took place in the furnace. It had most likely been caused by water entering the furnace while the workers were adding in the scrap metal. The three men suffered burns to their faces, heads and backs. There was also resulting damage to the surrounding equipment.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Weir Minerals Europe Limited was aware of the risk associated with wet scrap metal being added to the furnace. However the protection from rain that was in place at the time of the incident was not adequately implemented and maintained.
Weir Minerals Europe Limited, of Halifax Road, Todmorden, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £6,095 in costs at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court on 5 September 2023.
A commercial printing company has been fined £100,000 after an employee’s hand was crushed by a laminating machine. The man had been working for Celloglas Limited at the firm’s site at Cross Green Industrial Estate in Leeds.
He was attempting to fix a laminating machine on 25 November 2020 when his right hand was drawn into the device and crushed between two rollers. The worker, who was 31 at the time, realised the machine had broken while he was feeding the device with paper. The incident led to the man’s right hand sustaining soft tissue crush injures as well as nerve damage and contact burns to his right wrist. The injuries to his hand meant the man could not drive for seven months following the incident and also led to him suffering with anxiety and PTSD.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found the laminating machine was not adequately guarded and that the company failed to review existing risk assessments for the machine which required the production of a safe system of work.
Celloglas Ltd, of Exeter Way, Theale Commercial Estate, Theale, Reading, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £5,165.09 in costs at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 30 August 2023.
A Cumbrian construction company has been fined after a man was critically injured falling 10m through the roof of an industrial unit. Craig Dickson, 39, from Carlisle, suffered multiple serious fractures, in the incident on Heathlands Industrial Estate, Kingmoor Park, Carlisle, on 25 March 2022.
CK Steelwork & Cladding Ltd were the contractor undertaking work on the roof of the building. The roof was known to be fragile, and, at the time of the incident, safety nets were being erected below the work area, although this work had not been completed.
Despite this, Mr Dickson was taken onto the roof by a supervisor to assess the job. While crossing an area of the roof that was not protected by the nets, he stepped onto a weak skylight which gave way, and he fell head-first around 10m onto the concrete floor below. Mr Dickson shattered most of the bones in his face, hands, and wrists. He lost four teeth and severely damaged his knee. He spent six weeks in intensive care and was confined to a wheelchair for five months. Since the accident he has endured constant pain, and 17 months later is still unable to work; he will never be able to return to his former profession.
In a victim impact statement Craig Dickson said: “The accident broke every bone in my face and knocked out my front four teeth. This has made me have zero confidence and major anxiety, which I now have to see a psychiatrist for, every week. My nose was badly broken, which has left me with no sense of smell, and I have difficulty breathing through it.
“Before my accident I was a very physically and mentally active person and attended the gym on a daily basis and was a keen fell walker and liked to socialise. I am now left in severe pain and now have anxiety and I’m always anxious and find it hard, if not impossible to do anything like I did before the accident.”
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that CK Steelwork & Cladding Ltd of Barras Lane Estate, Dalston, Carlisle, had failed to take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of workers on the roof.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. They were fined £16,000 and were ordered to pay £4,462.59 in costs at a hearing at Carlisle Magistrates Court on 31 August 2023.
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