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Viridor worker death leads to £650,000 fine

Viridor has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the death of a 42-year-old employee who was fatally injured in a ballistic separator machine.

Rafal Swiadek was killed at the firm’s Milton Keynes site in August 2016. After entering the ballistic separator to clean it while it was switched off, the power was turned on again at the control room and the machine restarted.

Swiadek suffered injuries that proved fatal. Thames Valley Police and local ambulance teams were sent to the site on Colts Holm Road, Old Wolverton, but he was found dead at the scene.

An investigation by the HSE revealed the company had failed to ensure the safety of workers during cleaning operations.

The HSE said: “There were inadequate guarding measures in place at the top level of the ballistic separators, which created ready access to the dangerous parts of machinery at the time of the incident.”

Viridor pleaded guilty to two charges under health and safety legislation at Aylesbury Crown Court on 26 October and was fined £650,000. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £34,197.14.

HSE inspector Emma Page said: “Every year, a significant number of serious or fatal injuries in the waste and recycling industry occur because machines are inadequately guarded, and because activities such as clearing blockages and maintenance are being undertaken when machinery is running.

“To prevent and reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury, adequate machine guards, isolation procedures and systems of work must be in place.”

A Viridor spokesperson said: “The tragic death of our colleague Rafal Swiadek on 8 August 2016 has had a profound effect on all of us at Viridor, and our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends.

“In the judgment, the court noted Viridor’s good health and safety record and its ongoing commitment to raise this to a gold standard, which seeks not only to advance the company’s own ambitions in this regard but to raise standards across the industry as a whole.

“We take our health and safety responsibilities very seriously. Nothing is more important than the safety of our people.

“While we cannot change what happened to Rafal, or understand how he came to be in this part of the plant at the time of his death, we must ensure we do everything possible to prevent something like this happening again.

“In addition to a warning alarm and a locking system to manage authorised access, which were already in place, we have installed a physical protective guard to prohibit access to the machinery, as a further precautionary measure.”

  • Viridor pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

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