*UPDATE* Bakkavor arm pays £2m for fatal bale fall
Thursday 11th May 2017
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Jacek Adamowicz was a 29-year-old employee of Hitchen Foods, which is owned by the Bakkavor Group. He had been sweeping an aisle between two rows of waste plastic bales in the yard at 10.45am on 4 February 2015 when two bales collapsed. One of them, weighing 723 kg, fell 3 m and landed on him.
Waste plastic packaging had been processed in the onsite baling machine and then stored before removal. The bales had been stacked one on top of another with no interleaving, three-high and between eight- and nine-deep. Each bale was separated by a wooden pallet which, as Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Ian Betley told IOSH Magazine, made the columns unsteady.
He said: "The bales of waste were larger than the pallets so they protruded over. The higher up you went, the more lean there was simply because of the amount of overhang. Some of the pallets were damaged or broken and were subjected to climatic conditions.
"The bales were uneven weights as well," Betley added. "They were not stacked in weight order; the bale in the middle was the heaviest, the top bale was the second heaviest and the one at the bottom weighed the least. They just were not stacked in a safe system."
Betley served an improvement notice on Bakkavor that required it to review its risk assessment.
The inspector said other defects he identified when he visited the Wigan location included no system for monitoring the condition of the bales and a lack of formal training for employees stacking them in the yard.
He said: "In order for a safe system of work to be implemented, they should have had a system for monitoring the bales, a system for training, a risk assessment and an exclusion zone to prohibit pedestrians entering that area.
"In my view, sweeping up could have been done after the bales had been removed from that area in order to eliminate the risk of people being struck by falling materials."
On 28 April, Judge Maurice Greene fined Bakkavor £2m at Manchester Crown Court, and ordered it to pay costs of £32,595. The company, whose customers include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and M&S, had pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act at an earlier hearing. (See the box below for how the judge applied the sentencing guidelines.)
After the accident, Bakkavor updated its risk assessment and replaced its existing stacking method with a pyramid formation, based on guidance from the agricultural industry. It eliminated the use of pallets between each bale and also implemented a monitoring system whereby an employee would regularly inspect the area and assess the condition of the bales and how they had been stacked.
"This was a systemic failure right from the outset," Betley said. "Not only should proper planning have been carried out in relation to the storage and stacking of waste bales, but also a system of work subsequently put in place to mitigate both risks. The company failed on both of these counts with devastating consequences."
Jacek Adamowicz, 29, worked at Hitchen Foods, which is owned by Bakkavor Group. On 4 February 2015 he was sweeping the storage yard when a stack of plastic bales collapsed on top of him. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Bakkavor Foods had failed to plan how the bales should be safely stacked and stored, and had not provided formal training for employees who were responsible for carrying out the task.
The Beckett’s Foods employee was loading meat at the company’s Moat House site in Coventry on 11 May 2016. He fell into the machine and sustained serious injuries to his hand, which needed skin grafts. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was no safe system of work for using the meat separating equipment, which Beckett’s had not fitted with the appropriate level of guarding. It pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) and 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Coventry Magistrates’ Court and was ordered to pay costs of £10,978.
Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court heard that Patrick Lambe was part of a four-man team that had been employed to clear limestone blockages in the preheater at Premier Periclase’s plant in Drogheda, County Louth when the incident occurred on 30 October 2014.
An electric tug was towing the trolley through the yard at JCB’s headquarters in Rochester, Staffordshire on 16 October 2013. At the same time, a DHL employee was auditing incoming deliveries nearby.Stafford Crown Court was told that the trolley fell on its side and struck the worker, pinning him to a stillage. He sustained fractures and internal injuries. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found there was no system to segregate vehicles operating the warehouse from both DHL and JCB workers who were on foot.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation found that workers at Premier Periclase’s plant at Drogheda, County Louth should not have been allowed to climb onto the preheater’s turntable to break up the heavy overhead limestone blockages. The regulator also concluded that a suspended scaffold should have been erected in the preheater’s upper level to ensure workers were stationed above the blockages. Instead, a ladder had been used, which also presented a high fall risk.
The magistrates’ court, North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard how on 23 October 2015, a 51-year-old worker was removing leftover steel from a machine called the Koch Straightener at steelmaker Rom’s site. As he was removing the material, his hand became trapped between the rotating rollers inside the machine and was severely crushed, resulting in the loss of the top of his right index finger.