A MAN was crushed beneath a two-tonne reel of paper and left paralysed from the chest down in an accident which a judge has described as “forseeable”.
A court heard that a dangerous practice had built up where the heavy reels were manouvered by workers using their shoulders at the end of the production line.
The dangers had been highlighted repeatedly within the factory as a health and safety concern, but nothing had been done about it, Judge John Rogers QC said.
Paper company SCA Hygiene, of Oakenholt, near Flint, were fined £120,000 at Mold Crown Court after admitting a health and safety breach and failing to provide a safe system of work.
Assistant winder man Christopher Shaw, 38, from Eastham, Wirral, is now a paraplegic following the spinal fractures he suffered on July 29, 2007, and has no movement below his chest and only limited movement in his arms.
Judge Rogers said: “Mr Shaw suffered horrific injuries in the course of his employment and the effect of those injuries has been to render him paraplegic. In very simple terms, this accident occurred when he was attempting to control and slow the descent of a two tonne reel of paper from the table to the floor with his shoulder.
“There was water on the floor and it may be the water caused him to slip and the reel moved on and crushed him.
“He was following a system of work deemed safe by the defendants, it was not so.
“The defendants now acknowledge it was not and as a result plead guilty to not ensuring the safety of Mr Shaw.
“In mitigation the company is a responsible organisation that has co-operated fully with this investigation. They have acknowledged their guilt at the earliest opportunity and immediate steps were taken to alter the system pursued at the time of Mr Shaw’s accident and there is now no risk arising from the present working practises.”
In addition to the fine the company will pay £18,514 costs.
Simon Parrington, prosecuting, said internal company minutes given by the company to the Health and Safety Executive during its investigation, showed between November 2006 until 10 days before Mr Shaw’s accident on five occasions under “health and safety outstanding actions” concerns were raised about manual handling of paper reels at the ejection point of the paper winding machine. On each occasion, a risk assessment had been called for.
“We say such an accident was bound to occur and it was forseeable,” said Mr Parrington. “It is quite clear problems were encountered and had been raised at health and safety meetings right up to the point when the accident occurred.”
Richard Matthews, for the company, said: “The company recognises the appalling injuries, the life changing injuries to this man which are the worst aspect of this and nothing I can say in terms of experessing genuine regret to everyone, can change anything. But that regret is felt throughout the company.”
Mr Matthews added that a civil claim relating to Mr Shaw’s injuries had already been settled, which the judge described as comforting.
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