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Sonae factory deaths may result in criminal charges

The deaths of two men at Sonae UK’s chipboard factory were caused by inadequate health and safety training, an inquest has heard. 

Thomas Elmer, 27, and James Bibbly, 25, from Rossendale, Lancashire, died from multiple injuries after being dragged into a conveyor belt while working for wood recyclers Sonae at their factory in Kirkby, Merseyside, in December 2010.

A narrative verdict was reached earlier in the week during an inquest at Bootle town hall. It concluded that the two workers’ deaths had been caused by a failure to follow procedures. The two workers were working on a conveyor belt and had not been shown how to isolate it from the power supply, the inquest heard.

A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive said: “We are carrying out a thorough investigation into the deaths of James Bibby and Thomas Elmer and will now carefully consider the inquest’s findings before deciding whether it is appropriate to bring criminal charges.”

The jury was told that before the incident both men were fit and healthy and were not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

A spokesperson for Sonae said: “Sonae had a permit to work system in place, which had it been followed would have prevented the tragic accident. It will be of little consolation but our thoughts remain with the families of Thomas Elmer and James Bibby.”

The factory closed down last September after two fires and other health and safety issues.

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