A man lost both his legs in a baler accident due to a ‘seriously flawed’ remote control built by a Thakeham resident, a court heard.
A scrap metal company and a businessman have been sentenced for serious safety breaches that led to a site worker losing both legs as the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him.
The 42-year-old worker was dealing with a problem inside the five-metre long baler at H Ripley & Co’s site in Westfield, East Sussex, when the doors of the machine began to close. He tried to use a remote control to stop them, but it failed to respond.
The man, now living in Pontypool, Wales, made a desperate attempt to escape in the remaining seconds, but the force of the jaws hit his legs as he scrambled away. One leg was severed and the other severely crushed and was amputated later in hospital.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated the incident, on May 24 2011, found the company’s isolation procedure for the baler was totally inadequate. It also found the remote control, built by co-defendant John Platt, of Thakeham, was seriously flawed.
Lewes Crown Court heard that it was possible for the baler, used to compact scrap metal, to take only one minute and 15 seconds to go from ‘car to cube’.
HSE found the remote control, manufactured and installed by John Platt, had several serious flaws. As a result, once the baler doors started closing, the remote control failed to activate to stop them. In addition the remote was not robust enough for the demands of working in a scrap metal yard.
On June 24, H Ripley & Co., of North Street, Hailsham was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £34,633 in full costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. John Platt, t/a John Platt Services of Bramble Lane, Thakeham, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6(1) of the same Act. He was fined £10,000 with £5,000 to pay toward costs.
After the court hearing, HSE Inspector Stephen Green said: “This was a horrific incident in which a worker suffered the loss of both legs, endured a sixth-month period in hospital and who will now spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
“It appears that no thought was given to the safety aspects of the remote units for the baler or the way they worked. Had original remotes been sourced or had John Platt manufactured fully functional alternatives, it is likely the incident would not have happened.”