Hailsham Firm fined after accident left man with no legs

A Hailsham-based scrap metal company and a businessman have been sentenced for serious safety breaches that led to a worker on another site losing both legs as the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him, the Health and Safety Executive has said.

On Tuesday (June 24) at Lewes Crown Court H Ripley and Co, of North Street, Hailsham, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £34,633 in full costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

John Platt, t/a John Platt Services of Bramble Lane, Thakeham, West Sussex, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6(1) of the same Act. He was fined £10,000 with £5,000 to pay toward costs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the 42-year-old worker was dealing with a problem inside the five-metre long baler at H Ripley and Co’s site in Westfield, East Sussex, when the doors of the machine began to close.

He tried to use a remote control to stop them, but it failed to respond, the HSE said.

The man, now living in Pontypool, Wales, made a desperate attempt to escape in the remaining seconds, but the force of the jaws hit his legs as he scrambled away, the HSE said.

The HSE said one leg was severed and the other severely crushed and was amputated later in hospital.

The HSE, which investigated the incident, on May 24 2011, found the company’s isolation procedure for the baler was totally inadequate.

It also found the remote control, built by co-defendant John Platt, of Thakeham, West Sussex, was seriously flawed.

The HSE said Lewes Crown Court heard that it was possible for the baler, used to compact scrap metal, to take only one minute and 15 seconds to go from ‘car to cube’. The maximum force of its doors was some 180 tonnes.

HSE’s investigation identified that a lack of suitable controls meant workers were able to get too close to the crushing and shearing hazards presented by the machine.

H Ripley and Co, which has three sites in East Sussex and two in Kent, had bought the baling machine in 2008 second-hand and fire-damaged and needed to get the radio control system re-built, the HSE said.

HSE found the remote control, manufactured and installed by John Platt, had several serious flaws. As a result, once the baler doors started closing, the remote control failed to activate to stop them. In addition the remote was not robust enough for the demands of working in a scrap metal yard, the HSE said.