Batley baling machine death tragedy firm fined £80k

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A BATLEY-based recycling firm has been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 costs more than three years after a Dewsbury father-of-six suffered fatal injuries in an “lethal” baling machine.

Simon Brook, 50, had been trying to fix a blockage in the 28-year-old machine on August 17, 2012, when he fell in and became trapped.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Mr Brook, who had to have his legs amputated at the scene, died two days later at Leeds General Infirmary.

Gwyn Davies McTiffen Limited, which operated the recycling plant on Bradford Road, pleaded guilty in June this year to one offence of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of Mr Brook and other employees when they were required to operate and clear blockages in the baling machine.

An inquest last year heard that it was a common practice for blockages to be cleared using a rod.

Prosecutor Ben Mill, for the Health and Safety Executive, told Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC that the accident occurred despite advice being given in 2002 and 2011.

The court heard that although improvements had been made to another more modern baling machine at the firm’s Uttoxeter site in 2011, the method being used at Batley was “inherently unsafe”.

Mr Mills said the accident was entirely avoidable and it would not have happened if the measures implemented at Uttoxeter been in place.

The court heard that the company, which employs six people, had no previous convictions.

Barrister James Buchanan conceded that the firm had “failed to join up the dots.”

He said it was a truly horrific case, but he did not wish the court to proceed on the basis that the failings were deliberate or wilful.

Imposing the fine, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC described the incident as “an accident waiting to happen” and said the baling machine was incredibly dangerous if not handled with extreme caution.

The judge noted that after the incident prompt steps had been taken to remedy the situation, but he added: “It simply underscores how easy it would have been for a responsible, careful employer to have prevented this death.

“What makes this case so serious is that this machine was so self-evidently powerful, and if not treated with great respect by all concerned, lethal.”

The judge said it should not have been possible to try and unblock the machine while it was still running and added that the firm had been lulled into a habit of carelessness.

In addition to the £80,000 fine the company was also ordered to pay £40,000 costs.

The firm will have five years to pay the total sum.