Kent Firm Prosecuted Over Shattered Jaw Injury

Recycling Company Taken To Court Over Serious Accident

25.07.2014

A recycling firm based in Kent has been prosecuted after one of its staff suffered a shattered jaw when a piece of plastic pipe hit him.

The 42-year-old worker was using a bandsaw to cut an old plastic pipe down to size for recycling at the Kingsnorth Waste Management site at Hoo in Rochester in 2010 when the piece was ejected at high speed.

Striking the man on his throat and under his chin, it caused fractures to both upper and lower jaw bones and burst his jaw hinges.

He has subsequently undergone a number of operations to reconstruct his jaw, but still suffers from problems with eating and has permanent nerve damage.

The HSE investigation found there were two further cases of ejected plastic striking workers at high speed - including one that hit a teenage trainee - and it issued a prohibition notice to halt further use of the saw.

It also discovered the firm had not identified the risks from the saw or implemented any measures that could have prevented debris being turned into projectiles.
Kingsnorth Waste Management pleaded guilty at Dartford Magistrates’ Court to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £7,000 with costs of £3,000.

Commenting after the incident, HSE inspector Gordon Chase said the firm "should have properly investigated how the bandsaws operated and fully understood the risks of use that were outlined in the instruction manual".

"That simple exercise would have demonstrated the need to put effective controls in place to safeguard their employees," he commented.

"The use of simple clamps or wedges, or the use of alternative cutting equipment, would have allowed the job to be safely carried out."

Mr Chase added that the recycling industry has a disproportionately high number of safety incidents.

This comment has been borne out by HSE research, with figures produced last year showing that while the industry only accounted for 0.6 per cent of employees in Britain in 2012-13, it suffered 2.8 per cent of incidents leading to death or serious injury.

Expert Opinion
This is another terrible incident which highlights not only the devastating, long-term consequences that serious safety failings can have on workers.

“Employers have a duty to ensure that workers and contractors can go about their daily tasks without facing risks to their health or safety. We would urge all businesses to take notice of this case as a key reason why they must put the welfare of workers before anything else in the workplace.

“Too many people are injured, some fatally, every year as a result of issues which should have been avoided. Lessons need to be learned from this kind of awful case.”
Stephen Nye, Partner