The director of a Birmingham recycling company has been given a 12-month suspended prison sentence after admitting he knew the risks of a dangerous and “dilapidated” trommel into which an employee was dragged and crushed to death.
Master Construction Products (Skips), which is in liquidation, was also fined £255,000 after pleading guilty to corporate manslaughter.
The incident happened on 22 January 2015 at the company’s site in Sparkhill, Birmingham. 29-year-old employee Safi Qais Khan was dragged into the trommel and sustained serious injuries to his head and upper chest.
An ambulance was called and a colleague tried in vain to revive Khan, who died at the site.
An inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that guards had been removed from the machinery, leaving a “realistic hazard” that a person could fall on to the drive chain and conveyor belts.
A prosecution was brought to Birmingham Crown Court by the Crown Prosecution Service. The court heard that company director Jagbir Singh (pictured), 37, of Brookmeadow Road, Walsall, was responsible for health and safety on the site but had failed to provide the employee with a safe system of work or equipment.
The trommel was described as being in a “dilapidated, ramshackle and lethal state”, with unguarded moving parts and no emergency stops. It was also surrounded by uneven and waste-strewn ground.
The court heard evidence from an employee that Singh failed to explain to him the risks of working with the trommel or to give any instructions for working safely.
Another employee who was paid to maintain and repair the lorries and machinery at the premises, including the trommel, admitted he had no formal qualifications or certificates as a mechanic.
The court heard that the company had failed to act on a series of warnings, including a letter sent to the firm by a health and safety consultant in 2009 to say the trommel needed to be considered.
Singh admitted he was aware of the way the company operated the trommel. The company admitted failing to ensure measures were in place to minimise the risk to employees of entrapment, crushing or falls while working at the trommel.
Sentencing took place on 31 October. In addition to his 12-month suspended sentence, Singh was given 300 hours’ community service, disqualified from becoming a company director for eight years and ordered to pay £11,500 in prosecution costs.
Detective constable Mark Harrison of West Midlands Police said: “This terrible tragedy is made so much worse by the fact that it could have been avoided.
”It was almost inevitable that somebody was going to be seriously injured or killed, given that the company prioritised cost-cutting over safety. A culture of negligence resulted in this sad loss of life.”
HSE inspector Karl Raw said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Safi Qais Khan following this tragic incident. This tragic death could have been avoided if basic safeguards had been put in place. This was an avoidable death of a person simply doing their job, and the HSE’s specialists fully supported this prosecution.”