Abattoir fined £70k over worker’s death

Swindon Advertiser: Adrian Roberts and his daughter Samatha Adrian Roberts and his daughter Samatha

A SLAUGHTERHOUSE where a worker was crushed to death as he was cleaning a machine has been ordered to pay just under £100,000 in fines and costs.

F Drury and Sons Ltd had no risk assessment or safe system of work for cleaning the equipment which is used to strip cattle carcasses of their hide, a court heard.

And it was possible for Adrian Roberts, who was asphyxiated by the hydraulic arm crushing him against a guard rail, to power up the machinery as he hosed it down.

Swindon Crown Court heard it was likely the 49-year-old accidentally knocked a switch at the abattoir in Royal Wootton Bassett, bringing the metal arm down on him.

Alan Fuller, prosecuting, said the accident took place at the slaughterhouse in Tockenham on August 18, 2011. He said Mr Roberts, of Beverley, Toothill, was filling in for colleague Adam Bielenuki, who was on holiday, when the accident happened at about 5pm.

The court was told colleague Scott Sturgess had trained Mr Roberts and told him not to turn the machines on when cleaning them.

But Mr Bielenuki would power it up before using the water lance to remove animal residue, and it is thought Mr Roberts had seen him.

Mr Fuller said the isolation switch should have been locked when the slaughtermen had finished, making it impossible for unauthorised people to turn it on.

He said the risk assessments for the machine did not cover cleaning it, and as a consequence there was no safe system of work.

The company, which has been in the Drury family since its formation in 1924 and employs 33 people, admitted breaching health and safety laws.

Charlie Woodhouse, defending, said Mr Roberts was regarded as a member of the family, sharing a house with the son of a director.

Since the accident, Mr Woodhouse said the firm had employed a full-time health and safety officer to replace the firm they previously outsourced the work to.

He said the isolation switch is now locked when the machine was turned off and a cowling had been fitted around the levers to stop them being accidentally activated.

Although the risk assessment did not cover cleaning the machine, he said that was partly because it was not supposed to be switched on at the time.

“We do not understand how the system we believed was in operation – not switching it on – got changed,” he said.

Addressing the level of fine he said the company, which has a good safety record, had losses of more than £22,000 over the past three years, though it was improving.

Recorder Fuller said: “The company accepts the principal allegation: there was no specific risk assessment or operating system for cleaning the hide puller and also that the isolation of power from the machinery was inadequate.

“In my judgment the risk of foreseeable injury in this case was high. The company fell well below the standards expected of it. The failure to comply with the system it said it implemented was lamentable.”

He fined them £70,000, giving them five years to pay, and ordered they pay £24,877.80 in costs.

A spokesman for F Drury and Sons said: “The thoughts of everyone at F Drury & Sons remain with Adrian and his family, as they have done ever since this tragic accident.

“Adrian was a friend as well a colleague and he is missed by everyone. This is the first serious incident the company has had in its 90-year history and it has co-operated with the HSE through the investigation.”

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