Scrap Metal Firm Prosecuted Over Serious Accident

Professor Says Services Need Resolving Immediately


A scrap metal firm and a businessman have been fined heavily over an accident in which one of its employees suffered such severe leg injuries that he lost both limbs.

H Ripley & Co came under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the company's premises in Westfield, East Sussex in May 2011, when the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him.

The worker had been trying to fix a problem with the device when the doors started closing and the remote control device that should have stopped them doing so failed to work. As he tried to escape, his legs were hit by the jaws of the door, with one being severed and another so badly damaged it had to be amputated.

HSE inspectors found the system for isolating power from the device - which had doors capable of exerting 180 tonnes of force - was inadequate, with the remote control system designed by co-defendant John Platt highly flawed.

The inspection also discovered the machine itself had been bought second hand and fire-damaged in 2008.
In the hearing at Lewes Crown Court, H Ripley & Co admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £60,000 with costs of £34,633. Mr Platt of John Platt Services pleaded guilty to breaching section 6(1) of the same legislation and was fined £10,000 with £5,000 costs.

Commenting after the hearing, HSE inspector Stephen Green remarked: “This was a horrific incident in which a worker suffered the loss of both legs, endured a six-month period in hospital and who will now spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

“It was also entirely preventable, H Ripley & Co had completely neglected to consider the risks and identify control measures needed to operate the machine safely." 

He concluded that risks in the waste management industry are "well-known and significant" and employers should always take steps to protect against them.

HSE guidance on the machinery used in the sector notes that power should be isolated when maintenance work is carried out.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury at work, our specialist serious injury claims team could help you to claim compensation. Visit our Accident at Work Claims page for more information.

Expert Opinion
This is a horrific case and our thoughts go out to this man who suffered unnecessary life-changing injuries.

“It is vital risk assessments and the appropriate safety measures are put in place to protect employees who work with heavy machinery.

“There are many risks to workers, but these can be minimised by companies following basic HSE guidelines.

“We hope that lessons are learnt from this case throughout the industry to prevent a similar incident from occurring with such devastating consequences.”
Stephen Nye, Partner