Metal recycling firm given a £2 Million fine for ‘Incident waiting to happen’
This month I thought I would just share this story with you. Please read the story and then watch the CCTV footage where you will see hundreds of safety breaches prior to the death of Stuart TOWNS (see video below). Then look around your workplace; be that a factory, a construction site, an office or wherever and see if you are allowing unsafe actions to take place. If the answer is yes, then you need to take immediate action to stop them or call us for advice.
At this metal recycling firm in the West Midlands called Alutrade Limited, there were numerous safety breaches. A culture also existed in which management regularly turned a blind eye to workers taking dangerous short cuts. Stuart was killed on 24 June 2017 at Alutrade’s Tat Bank Road yard in Oldbury. Footage shows the 34-year-old accessing an area beneath a hopper – which feeds scrap metal onto a conveyor belt, known as the ‘’Biffa Line’ – via a broken gate. Colleagues discovered Stuart’s body a few minutes later. He had suffered major head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.
West Midlands Police and the HSE examined weeks of CCTV footage (see video below). In this footage you can see workers jumping on metal in a hopper to clear blockages and walking on a conveyor belt. In another instance, the Managing Director Malcolm GEORGE is seen driving a forklift truck that lifts TOWNS 18 feet in the air to clear a blockage.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard the firm should have prevented access to dangerous machinery, and the machine should have been switched off before workers performed any cleaning or maintenance. Alutrade had been warned previously about the lack of lockable gates to prevent access to the machine. The firm
had installed gates but, at the time of Stuart’s death, they were damaged. CCTV from the weeks leading up to the incident shows employees, including Stuart, climbing in and on the machine and going underneath it to clear blockages.
Four days before he was killed, Stuart had been warned not to work too close to the hopper by Alutrade’s managing director Malcolm GEORGE. On the day he died – just 40 minutes before the incident – CCTV again shows Stuart working close to the hopper but GEORGE, who was standing nearby, failed to take any action.
The CCTV, compliments of West Midlands Police, is here:
The CPS initially brought charges of gross negligence manslaughter against GEORGE, director Kevin PUGH and health and safety manager Mark REDFERN, but ultimately, they admitted breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act by virtue of section 37. GEORGE was fined £15,000 with costs of £7,109; PUGH was fined £5,318 with £3,854 costs; and REDFERN was fined £2,635, with the company paying his costs.
ALUTRADE was ordered to pay £105,514 costs on top of its £2 million fine. West Midlands Police’s senior investigating officer, Hannah Whitehouse, said
Stuart’s death was ‘an incident waiting to happen’. He and other staff at Alutrade Ltd were operating in a culture where dangerous working practices were regularly overlooked.
‘You do not need a detailed understanding of health and safety legislation to know from watching the footage that
workers were frequently allowed to risk their lives. ‘The company put profit before health and safety and it cost Stuart his life.’
Inspector Willets added:
‘Serious injuries to workers in waste and recycling are too common. ‘If the gates preventing access to the conveyor had been repaired, workers would not have been put at risk and Stuart Towns’ fatal injuries could have been prevented.’