WEEE recycler Environcom has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £16,286 after admitting safety failings when a worker was struck by a washing machine at one of its sites.
Desmond Adlington, from Grantham, suffered fractures to three vertebrae and a broken rib when he was hit by the washing machine, which fell from a grabber at Environcom England, Grantham, on 22 April 2013.
Adlington had to wear a back brace for more than a year and underwent an operation to repair the damaged parts of his spine. He is still on pain relief medication and will require further medical interventions for the rest of his life and his mobility is seriously affected.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and prosecuted the company at Lincoln Crown Court.
On 2 February, the court heard that a number of designated pedestrian walkways and entrances had been installed at the site following previous HSE enforcement related to workplace transport.
However,the HSE said that two of the key routes had since “been allowed to fall into disrepair” and were not in use due to an overspill from the firm’s recycling activities.
After the incident two notices were served to Environcom in relation to safety for the grabber machine, and measures to prevent risks to pedestrians from vehicle movements.
After the hearing, HSE inspector David Lefever said: “This incident, which could easily have resulted in Mr Adlington’s death, was entirely preventable had the company maintained the pedestrian walkways previously required by HSE.
“It is vital that pedestrians are separated from the dangers posed by vehicles. The company let the walkways become blocked so pedestrians had to use other routes, including the main vehicle entrance to factory.
“As a result of this, Mr Adlington has needlessly been left with serious injuries which will no doubt affect him for the rest of his life.”
An Environcom statement said the company has worked with the HSE to implement new procedures for safe operation and introduced tighter supervision to prevent people walking in restricted areas and to reduce risks to pedestrians from vehicle movements.
A company spokesperson said: “We of course are extremely sorry for Mr Adlington’s position and understand he has received significant injuries. Since the incident we have supported him extensively in every way available to us.
“The accident involved a third party contractor we employed for their specialist expertise and shortly after the incident we ceased using this system of grabber, after consultation with the HSE.
“Health and safety are of the utmost importance for our operation and we consistently audit and review our procedures. We have recently been awarded a British Safety Council three star award for our high standards.”