An employee at a waste company was crushed after falling into an industrial shredder while attempting to clear out a blockage in the machine.
The worker, David Willis, who was employed at Timmins Waste Services (TWS) in Wolverhampton, fell into the machine which was designed to shred wood and commercial waste in September 2018.
TWS and Willis’ manager Brian Timmins, who was operating the machine at the time of the accident, are on trial at Wolverhampton Crown court, and are being accused of “systemic failures” that ultimately led to the death of an employee.
The court heard that the incident occurred when the machine “stopped abruptly”. As a result, Timmins began to investigate the machine with Willis, using a digger to lift him up on top of the shredder.
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CCTV shows Willis falling into the machine while Timmins is working within, yet Timmins doesn’t see this and is shown looking around the site for Willis.
Despite not finding Willis, his manager returns to the digger and continues to operate the shredder, and later told Willis’ mother, who had called Timmins that evening worried about Willis’ whereabouts, that the last time he had seen Willis was when he left work that morning and “walked up the road”.
The court heard that Timmins had consented to TWS’ failure to ensure the health and safety of its employees.
The prosecutor Christine Agnew KC said: “The Crown say that the conduct of Brian Timmins that day fell far below what would be expected of a reasonable and competent person in his position and was truly, exceptionally bad.”
She described TWS’ health and safety procedures as “(falling) well short of where they should have been” with a “total disregard for workers’ safety”.
Failure to ensure health and safety
Companies have a legal duty of care for their employees. This case highlights that inadequate training of managers around health and safety procedures can result in tragedy and prosecution of yourself or involved employees.
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The toll on employee wellbeing, combined with the new demands of a distributed workforce, are highlighting the essential and complex role that employers must now play in supporting their employees’ mental and physical health.
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This guide was written to help employers bridge this gap.
Health and safety are important in workplaces where there is machinery or the possibility of things falling on top of workers, like in a warehouse for example.
Yet, incidents can happen in any work environment regardless of being in an office or factory. Therefore, employers must build robust regulations and procedures in-line with the Health and Safety Work Act (HSWA) 1974.