Scrapyard worker died after aerosols exploded in baler

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A SCRAPYARD worker was engulfed in flames and died following an explosion when air freshener canisters were crushed in a baler, a judge heard yesterday.

Father-of-two Mark Wright, 37, said by his mother to have been worried about safety at work in the months before his gruesome death in 2005, was conscious following an explosion at Deeside Metal Company at Saltney.

“It was a dreadful event,” said prosecuting counsel Andrew Moran.

“Tragically, he understood what had happened to him and he understood he was bound to die.

“He uttered those words to those who attended to him. He knew how badly burned he was and sadly he did succumb to those injuries.”

Long-serving scrapyard manager Robert Roberts, 57, of Golftyn Drive, Connah’s Quay, alleged by the prosecution to have shown a “lax” attitude towards safety, was fined £10,000.

He admitted failing to take reasonable care for the safety of other people. The prosecution said he instructed Mr Wright, of Wrekin Way, Saltney, to crush the canisters.

Defence counsel Andrew Long said: “Mr Roberts discharged his duties diligently as manager of Deeside Metal. He took his health and safety responsibility seriously.”

The lorry driver who delivered the 3,500-4,000 canisters had reassured him they had been degassed.

Deeside Metal, a family-run business where the prosecution claimed there had been multiple management failures, was fined £100,000 with £10,000 costs. The company admitted failing to ensure the safety of employees and not making a proper risk assessment. .

Jeyes, a major manufacturer of household and cleaning products across Britain, including at Mold from where the aerosol canisters had been taken to the scrapyard, was fined £330,000 with £50,000 costs. The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure non-employees were not exposed to risk.

Judge Merfyn Hughes QC told Caernarfon Crown Court there was a lack of a proper system to segregate hazardous waste at the Jeyes site. An untrained waste carrier appeared to have been allowed the freedom of the site and management should have been aware he was removing the canisters.

The canisters were assumed wrongly to be empty. He said: “What strikes me is the aerosol canisters in this case are well known to be items which must be disposed of carefully.

“Every housewife or other consumer knows used aerosols, even when thought to be empty, are capable of causing harm if not disposed of in an appropriate manner.”

Mr Wright had not been told of a warning in the baler manual that volatile items should not be crushed. Probably as the machine was switched off, a cloud of flammable vapour ignited.

- AFTER the sentencing hearing the campaign group Families Against Corporate Killers said: “It is a disgrace that the case has taken nearly six years to reach the stage of those responsible being held to account.

“It has caused the family much additional distress. It also fails to act as a credible deterrent to other employers.”

Mr Wright’s mother Dorothy, 67, from Glasgow, said in a victim impact statement: “He told us and friends that he was sure someone would be killed one day as serious safety risks were being taken. He was looking for another job.”

She said after the case: “The judge was very fair and blamed the people who should be blamed.”

But she added: “A fine isn’t a fitting penalty for taking a life, nor is it a deterrent.

“Any other negligent employer in the waste industry would probably think that’s not so bad.”

Health and Safety Executive head of Operations in Wales, Jane Lassey. said last night: “This is a tragic case and must serve as a warning to other companies handling potentially dangerous material about the consequences of not having safe working practices in place.”

She added: “Both companies contributed to the death of Mr Wright by allowing this highly dangerous situation to arise.

“Jeyes UK had a clear responsibility to ensure the canisters were labelled correctly and separated from non-hazardous waste, and to have procedures to prevent such dangerous waste being inadvertently removed from their site.

“By failing to do this they put workers in danger.

“Deeside Metal Co lacked proper procedures for handling hazardous materials and operating dangerous machinery. They assumed the canisters were empty, but this proved to be a fatal error of judgment.”

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