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Scrap metal dealer fined after worker loses legs

A scrap metal dealer has been fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £34,633 in costs after a worker lost both legs when the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him.

H Ripley & Co, which runs five sites across Kent and East Sussex, admitted breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. John Platt, who had built the remote control for the machine, also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6 (1) of the same act and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 towards costs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the incident happened in 2011 when an unnamed 42-year-old worker was dealing with a problem in the 5m long baler at the yard in Westfield, East Sussex, when the doors began to close. He tried to use the remote control to stop them but it failed to respond.

As the man scrambled to get out of the machine, the doors closed on his legs, one of which was severed immediately and the other was later amputated in hospital.

The HSE investigation found that a lack of suitable controls meant that workers were able to getting too close to the crushing and shearing hazards presented by the machine, which had been bought second-hand and fire-damaged three years earlier and had to have its radio-control system re-built.

The HSE found “serious flaws” in the system built by Platt and deemed that it was “not robust enough” for the demands of working in a scrap metal yard.

HSE inspector Stephen Green said: “It was entirely preventable, H Ripley & Co had completely neglected to consider the risks and identify control measures needed to operate the machine safely. It had failed to ensure that there was a system to isolate the machine from power before anyone could get inside.

“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.”

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