Building materials manufacturer Hanson Building Products has been fined £280,000 after an employee’s head was crushed between concrete blocks and a metal platform.
The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Hanson after the death of Peter Clarke at the company’s distribution plant in Coleshill on April 26 2008.
On June 23, Hanson appeared at Warwick Crown Court and pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA. As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay £29,204 in costs.
The court heard that Clarke was removing samples of concrete blocks for quality checking from a conveyor that transferred groups of concrete blocks from a kiln to a packaging area.
Clarke was standing next to a low bridge over the conveyor when he leaned forward to remove some blocks from the machine. His head was crushed between the concrete blocks on the conveyor and the metal platform when another worker – whose view of Clarke was obscured – changed the direction of the conveyor.
An HSE investigation into the incident found that the company had not conducted a sufficient risk assessment, identifying only the risk of workers trapping their fingers between the blocks and the stairway.
HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove said: “There were no safe systems of work for removing the blocks and the company failed to supervise Clarke adequately. The area where he was working was well known as a danger zone by other workers, but he had been on site for less than two weeks and nobody had told him about the risks.
“Employers should understand that where failing standards in the workplace result
in serious injury or death, HSE will prosecute.”
In mitigation, the firm said it regretted the incident and had fully complied with the investigation and the terms of the Prohibition Notice. It has removed the low bridge and installed a light guard, which isolates the machine if a worker leans over the conveyor. It has also provided staff with fresh training on what constitutes a safe method of work, and the defined work area.