Linas Mataitis, a 25-year-old Lithuanian living in Mitcham, was struck by the bucket of a wheeled loading shovel at European Metal Recycling (EMR) Ltd’s site in Willesden during a shutdown clean-up on 18 July 2010. He sustained fatal injuries after being pushed and pinned against a steel column.
EMR is one of the world’s largest metal recycling firms but failed to properly segregate people and moving vehicles, a court heard yesterday (20 May).
Southwark Crown Court was told that Mr Mataitis had joined the company two months earlier as a temporary worker. He was working near a large shredding machine that had been powered down for essential annual maintenance, with surrounding safety zones and interlocking gates opened up to allow worker and vehicle access. He was one of a team of workers using hand shovels to scrape and clear dirt near conveyors feeding the shredder, which they placed into piles for colleagues using machines to clear.
On the morning of 18 July there were three vehicles operating alongside the team on foot; a bobcat, a mini excavator and a wheeled loading shovel. The smaller machines were being used to fill the bucket of the loading shovel, which then drove away to be emptied.
The court heard the loading shovel was returning to be refilled for a fourth time when it struck Mr Mataitis and crushed him against a conveyor support.
A subsequent HSE investigation found that although EMR had a documented procedure for clearing dirt from around the conveyors, which mentioned the use of a Bobcat, it did not cover the shutdown operation when the safety gates were open, when more vehicles were operating nearby and when there was increased pedestrian movement. As such, there were inadequate arrangements for safely managing the movement of people and machinery.
HSE also established that the loading shovel was being driven by a partly trained operator who may not have been authorised to use it. The company had confusing and conflicting records in this regard, highlighting failings to properly manage and audit training and supervision.
European Metal Recycling Limited, of Delta Crescent, Westbrook, Warrington, Cheshire, was fined a total of £300,000 and told to pay a further £72,901 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Jane Wolfenden said: "Linas’ tragic death was entirely preventable. European Metal Recycling, as one of the world’s largest recycling companies, should have been fully aware of its health and safety duties, and of the clear risks presented by vehicle and pedestrian movements.
"A risk assessment isn’t a paper exercise where a ‘one size fits all’ approach is acceptable, and the company should have properly planned for the shutdown operation where the level of risk was significantly increased –implementing safe systems of work to suit.
"The same can be said for training, instruction and supervision, where there was no clear direction or protocol for monitoring new or inexperienced workers.”