Worker loses arm after it becomes trapped in machinery - Neath Port Talbot Recycling must pay £140,000
A RESPECTED recycling worker lost his arm working in a plant which was “an accident waiting to happen”.
“Long standing and respected” employee Steve John, aged 59, was working for Neath Port Talbot (Recycling) Ltd at their Crymlyn Burrows site.
The prosecution said a catalogue of health and safety errors resulted Mr John's arm becoming trapped in a machine.
Despite nine hours of surgery his right arm had to be amputated.
His former employers have been fined £90,000 and told to pay £50,000 in costs after admitting two offences of not ensuring effective safety measures were in place.
Swansea Crown Court heard debris from black bag waste regularly blocked the conveyor belt which led to a shredder.
Because of a lack of proper training, staff at the plant had made a tool to help clear debris from the belt but then needed to use their arms inside the machine between a roller and the belt to clear the rest.
At that point the machine should have been switched off, but on May 11, 2011, a breakdown in communication saw the machine turned on while Mr John had his arm inside.
He had screamed for help and colleagues, including his cousin, went to his aid. One went to the nearest first aid kit but found it was empty leaving them to wrap his severed arm in clean rags before paramedics arrived.
When he got to hospital he described the pain as being 10 out of 10.
He remained in hospital for a month after the incident.
In a statement by Mr John read to the court, he said he was still suffering trauma and regularly thinks about the accident.
Prosecution barrister Carl Harrison said there was no guard in place on the machine and that the emergency stop button was not in reach of the person who would have their arm inside.
The control panel had also been moved so that the person operating the machine and the person cleaning it could not see each other so signals, which were not uniform between staff, had to be shouted or waved between staff which could, and did, lead to confusion.
Mr Harrison said the company had previously been warned by the Health and Safety Executive about its lack of risk assessment and in 2007 another employee suffered crush injuries in a similar incident. They had also been warned by auditors about the lack of guards on machines five times between 2008 and 2010.
One employee wrote a draft risk assessment when he saw there wasn’t one but said his manager had showed “no interest” in his report.
The prosecution said the accident was “clearly foreseeable” and said there was a risk of serious injury or death to employees.
Defence Barrister Mark Balysz said the company were apologetic to Mr John and had tried but were not able to find him another job within their company.
“Did they fail? Yes. Are they sorry? Very much so,” he said.
“The company has learnt its lesson at the expense of Mr John and they do not wish to be before this court or any other court again,” he said.
He asked the judge to limit the fine, partly because of any effect it would have on Neath Port Talbot Council.
Neath Port Talbot Council is the shareholder of Neath Port Talbot (Recycling) Ltd's parent company and representations were made by the company's defence team that any fines and costs should be limited because of the effect it could have on the council's finances.
Recorder Peter Rouch said he had to take into account the fact those footing the fine would be taxpayers but the company's Managing Director said they would discharge the amount in full within 28 days.
"When deciding upon the level of fine I have to take into account the ability to meet the fine and also who will eventually be responsible for paying it. In this case the council tax payers of Neath Port Talbot," he said.
“This was an accident just waiting to happen,” he said.
“There’s no doubt the incident was foreseeable and that the company seriously failed in its duty to ensure the Health and Safety of those involved,” he added.