Recycling company failed in duty to provide safe working environment… A teenage motocross rider has had his promising career in the sport ruined as a result of an accident at a recycling plant where a 16 tonne machine crushed and broke his foot.
The recycling company based in Maidstone that employed the young man, were prosecuted by the HSE for failing in their legal duty to operate a safe working environment at their site in Folkestone where the accident occurred.
The 19 year-old accident victim was sorting waste disposal items at the recycling plant on 22 February 2010 when the tyre belonging to a massive 16 tonne shovel vehicle rolled over his right foot. The sheer weight of the impact led the young man to break a total of 16 bones in his foot and he continues to suffer from pain in his foot and bouts of arthritis. His promising career in motocross has come to an end despite the fact he had previously won races at national level and had been in the process of securing a lucrative sponsorship deal. His injuries have also meant he has been unable to gain a driving licence and is not yet ready to return to employment.
Maidstone Magistrates’ Court heard that there was no formal procedure in place to segregate pedestrians and vehicles at the site. Instead, employees were simply verbally warned to move out of the way of oncoming vehicles, a method which falls far short of expected safety standards. An Improvement Notice was issued by the HSE to deal with this issue during the early part of their investigation into this accident.
The HSE investigation also discovered that the shovel vehicle itself was not maintained to an adequate standard which had implications for both driver safety and pedestrian safety. The windscreen wipers were not working and the heater in the cab didn’t function either, meaning there was very poor visibility in the vehicle. The vehicle had a broken wing mirror, no reversing lights, no reversing CCTV or convex mirror to aid the driver, and often had gearbox problems. When the vehicle didn’t start, the driver would sometimes use a screwdriver to start the engine and the roof beacon and other lights on the vehicle frequently blew bulbs.
Speaking after the hearing on April 3, Stephen Green who investigated the case for the HSE said:
“The injured worker was lucky not to be killed as a result of this incident, which could have easily been avoided if the long list of failures with this vehicle and systems had been addressed earlier.
“HSE has plenty of helpful guidance that could have been followed, and if the company had implemented a safe system of work, segregating moving vehicles from pedestrians, then a young man wouldn’t have broken a bone for every tonne of weight that rolled over his foot – 16 in total.
“There is no excuse for not having a safe system of work in place.”
The recycling company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in relation to the incident and was fined £10,000 in addition to costs of £6,221.