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Huge fine following waste fatality

01 November 2018

A WASTE management company has been fined £650,000 after a worker was fatally injured while cleaning a large ballistic separator machine.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard how, on 8 August 2016, a Viridor Waste Management Limited (Viridor) employee climbed into the top level of the ballistic separator, a machine that sifts through and separates recyclable materials, to clean it before it was suitably isolated from the power supply. Whilst the employee was inside the machine, the electrical power supply to the ballistic separator was turned on from the control room and the machine subsequently restarted, resulting in the employee being fatally injured.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident,  found 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. 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.

Viridor, of Colts Holm Road, Old Wolverton, Milton Keynes, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and has been fined £650,000 and ordered to pay costs of £34,197.14.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Emma Page said: “Every year, a significant number of serious or fatal injuries in the waste and recycling industry occur because machines are inadequately guarded and because activities such as clearing blockages and maintenance are being undertaken when machinery is running.

“To prevent and reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury adequate machine guards, isolation procedures and systems of work must be in place.”

HSM received the following statement from a Viridor spokesperson: "The tragic death of our colleague Rafal Swiadek on 8 August, 2016, has had a profound effect on all of us at Viridor and our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends. At Aylesbury Crown Court on Friday, 26 October, 2018, Viridor pleaded guilty to contravening two regulations under health and safety legislation at the Milton Keynes site.

“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.”