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£90,000 fine for South Wales firm.

Swansea Crown Court has levied a fine of £90,000.00 on a recycling firm after an employee lost an arm in an accident which was “waiting to happen”.

The company, Neath Port Talbot Recycling Ltd, was also ordered to pay £50,000.00 costs following the incident in 2011.

The Court was told how the 57 year old employee, Stephen John, was asked to clean a conveyor belt which had become blocked with a sticky black substance known as flack. The company did not have any risk assessment or safe system of work for completing this task.  Experienced employees like Mr John had developed their own way of cleaning the conveyor belt roller.

The system of work had been devised partly because the control switch was located some distance away from the actual conveyor.  In order to clean the rollers, one employee stood by the control switch, which was out of sight from the conveyor, and  a second person inserted a bar and scraped the flack from the roller.  He then inserted his arm to wipe away the flack. A command was given to the switch controller and the conveyor was started and stopped quickly.  The process was repeated until the roller was clean.

The Court heard on the day of the accident Mr John inserted his arm and was wiping the flack away.  He then passed the bar to a work colleague.  The employee looking after the switch misinterpreted this as a signal and started the conveyor.  Mr John’s right forearm was trapped and amputated by the conveyor belt.

Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector, Sarah Baldwin-Jones said the potential for greater harm or a fatal accident was a realistic possibility.  The Defendant company of Crymlyn Burrows in Swansea pleaded guilty to two safety breaches.   The company’s Managing Director, Will Watson, said that the company deeply regretted what had happened and that issues at the plant had now been addressed.

Swansea Crown Court heard that a similar incident happened in 2007 and over the following years the firm had been warned about its health and safety measures.

Kim Daniells of the CNCI team said "this terrible incident reminds us that, for many people, the workplace is a hazardous environment. The work of the Health and Safety Executive in enforcing safety standards is crucial".