Hudderfield Firm Fined 60 Grand For Crush Death

A Huddersfield textile firm's been handed a hefty fine after a man was crushed at work.

40 year old Gary Lee from Holmfirth was cleaning a huge bailing machine when it re-activated, he received multiple crush injuries as he was first trapped horizontally by the force of one plate before a vertical compressing ram also operated.

Westwood Yarns was fined £60,000 at Bradford Crown Court and ordered to pay £20,625 in costs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which mounted the prosecution, said management safety failings at Westwood Yarns' Washpit Mills factory in Holmfirth were responsible for the tragedy.

Bradford Crown Court heard that Mr Lee, who had worked at the company since he was 18, had received no proper training in how to clean the baling machine but had tackled the task on 3 January 2008 when asked to do the job.

A colleague heard shouts minutes after Mr Lee had begun cleaning the machine and rushed over to hit the emergency stop button. He found Mr Lee with severe crush injuries and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The HSE investigation suggested Mr Lee may have inadvertently obscured an electronic sensor, which re-activated the operation of the baling compressors as the machine had been left in automatic mode. It should instead have been shut down completely.

HSE inspectors found a lack of supervision and consistency in work processes at the factory. Also a lack of equipment meant some procedures could not be carried out properly.

Immediately after the incident, an enforcement notice was served on the firm requiring improvements to ensure the cleaning operation of the baler was carried out safely.

Inspector Kirsty Townend, who carried out the investigation, said:

'This was an entirely preventable tragedy. The dangers of baling machines are notorious in the industry but are still all too common. At Westwood Yarns, there was a common misunderstanding that isolation and lock-off at the mains were not required.

'No one seemed to appreciate fully how the baling machine worked from a safety perspective, so dangerous assumptions were made which led directly to Mr Lee's death.

'The company fell well short of its duty to protect employees from a known hazard. Employees were working in a system that allowed poorly controlled work practices to develop, and ineffective monitoring meant these were not picked up and corrected.'