In 2011, the Operations Manager at DS Smith Paper Ltd, Higher Kings Mill was attempting to smooth out felt on a conveyor at the mill when he was pulled into the machinery causing fatal injuries.
The incident was investigated by the HSE which prosecuted DS Smith Paper Ltd, at Exeter Crown Court this August.
The court heard that he was trying to identify a problem that was causing creases in the large rolls of industrial paper being produced. Following the practice of some other workers in the factory when similar situations occurred, he climbed onto a work platform to check if the creases were caused by problems on a large, moving felt belt, used to squeeze water out of the pulp mixture.
Although no-one saw what exactly happened to him, it is likely he was dragged onto the felt belt which then ripped and he fell into the machinery below, causing fatal crush injuries. He was pronounced dead at Royal Devon and Exeter hospital having been taken there by an ambulance.
HSE’s investigation found the company had failed to place any guard around the belt and did not have a suitable risk assessment for work which needed to be carried out to find the cause of creases and for working on the gantry.
DS Smith Paper Ltd, of Euston Road, London, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined a total of £400,000 and ordered to pay £34,761.67 in costs.
The HSE Inspector on the case commented that DS Smith’s failure to guard a dangerous piece of moving machinery tragically cost this man his life and has left his family without a husband, father and brother.
The HSE want to make it clear to other businesses that potentially dangerous machinery should always be guarded and turned-off when workers need access to repair faults. The importance of a full risk assessment for both routine and, in this case, non-routine activities, cannot be stressed highly enough.
The HSE view is that proper risk assessment would have highlighted these dangers and established safe practices for staff instead of putting their lives at risk. The HSE provide guidance on guarding machinery which can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/fee-for-intervention/basic-safety-mistakes/guards.htm