News added on 14.05.2019

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Risk assessment

Employee crushed to death by plastic bales

An employee was fatally crushed by falling plastic bales. What led up to the accident, and how could his employer have prevented it?

Mr Andrews (A) worked for Centriforce Products Limited (C). A delivery of waste plastic bales had been stacked in free-standing columns in a yard. The bales, each weighing over 500kg, were stacked three high in each column. A fork lift truck driver noticed that one of the columns had partially collapsed and was obstructing his path. He used the fork lift truck to straighten and stabilise the stack.

Later the same day, A was working near a stack when it toppled, and the middle and top bales fell on top of him. The collapse was discovered nearly an hour later, when A could not be revived.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation found that C had failed to store the waste plastic bales securely in such a way as to prevent the risk of collapse. It had also failed to carry out a suitable assessment, which would have identified the risks to employees working near the unstable stacks.

C pleaded guilty to breaching its duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees at work as far as is reasonably practicable under s.2(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £10,500.

Heavy bales of plastic had been stacked on site in an unstable manner, putting workers in the vicinity in danger. The employer should have carried out a suitable assessment, which would have identified the risks posed by the bales. It could then have implemented a proper stacking system so work could be carried out in the area safely.

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