Recycling firm fined £100,000 for worker’s death

A recycling company from Redditch has been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was killed by a bale of waste weighing more than a tonne.

Kenneth Swaby, 43, of Canvey Island, Essex, was struck by the falling bale as he walked past a stack of them, some five metres high, on 11 February 2011.

Three of the stacked bales toppled over and one landed on Mr Swaby, killing him instantly.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the matter and found that the Employer had failed to properly control the risks on the site, particularly with regard to the proper storage and safe stacking of waste materials.

Worcester Crown Court heard  that stacks of unstable material, such as baled paper and plastic, should slope backwards towards the top, and the bales should be interlocked to prevent them from falling. The stability of the stack should be checked regularly, and where bales can fall, workers on the ground should be kept well clear.

On this occasion, HSE found that the stacks of bales were uneven and too high, with no measures in place to prevent employees approaching them on foot.

The company were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £57,927 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE Inspector Jan Willets said:

“Mr Swaby’s tragic death could have been prevented had R&S Recycling Limited made simple and adequate provisions to protect employees working with and alongside stacks of baled waste.

“The risks from materials falling from storage at height are clear, and there are necessary procedures for the safe management of bales in stacks. Yet on this occasion, Mr Swaby was able to walk right next to these unstable bales, with devastating consequences.”