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Viridor’s subsidiary fined after worker blinded

A subsidiary of Viridor has been fined £165,000 after one of its workers was severely injured and left blind in one eye when he was struck by a piece of high tensile wire.

Edinburgh-based Viridor Enviroscot was prosecuted for safety failings following an investigation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Airdrie Sheriff Court heard that Declan Shipcott, 20, of Alexandria, was helping two colleagues clear a blockage on a baler machine, which had a wire tie mechanism to bind bales of waste material, when the incident happened at the firm’s materials recycling facility in Bargeddie, Glasgow, on 24 September 2012.  The blockage was preventing the strapping wire from wrapping around the bale.

After 30 minutes, the workers had been unable to clear the blockage and so cut the wire. The remaining wire was in a “recoil” box, which had a button to release any tension still in the wire.

Mr Shipcott opened the box to find the wire had become knotted and, unable to undo the knot, used wire cutters to cut it free. A piece of wire flicked out and struck him on the face and left eye. He was not wearing any eye protection.

Surgery was only partially successful and he is now blind in his left eye.

The HSE investigation found that although there was a risk assessment for replacing the wire, there was nothing referring to cutting the wire, although the fact wire cutters were available at the machine acknowledged sometimes wire had to be cut.

The court heard there was no safe system of work for those involved in cutting high tensile wire and that the company had failed to distribute and ensure the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses. The company reviewed its risk assessments following the incident and employees now wear a full face visor when working at the baler.

Viridor Enviroscot pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Mark Burrows-Smith, chief operating officer, recycling and resources, at Viridor, said the company takes the health, safety and wellbeing of employees very seriously and was “deeply disappointed” it failed to meet its own high standards on this occasion.

“Viridor has accepted full liability for the matter involving a colleague seeking to assist others in freeing wire at a baler station,” he added. “We immediately remedied the situation, provided full health, employment and financial support to our colleague and, importantly, shared the learnings from this incident throughout the business and wider sector.

“Whilst we are pleased our colleague has been able to return to work, incidents such as this demonstrate the need for continued vigilance and rigid adherence to the importance of returning colleagues home safely to their families each and every evening.”

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