Updated Mar 5, 2021

Recycling firm sentenced after employees trapped in machinery

A waste recycling firm, its director and site manager have been sentenced after an employee died and a second was seriously injured when they became trapped inside machinery.

Durham Crown Court heard how in 2015, two employees were operating a waste processing line at the Aycliffe Quarry site of Stonegrove Aggregates Ltd in County Durham. The line became blocked at various points including inside a large industrial trommel machine. The trommel incorporates a large perforated revolving drum, which acts to agitate, rotate and sieve the waste materials.

The two employees stopped the trommel and entered the drum to clear the blockage. While they were inside the machine two other employees, who were unaware that they were inside the machinery, restarted the production line. The two employees remained inside the revolving drum for approximately four minutes before the line was stopped and the two men were found inside.

One man died at the scene after sustaining multiple injuries to his head and torso. The other man sustained multiple serious injuries to his legs, arms and torso, requiring extensive hospital treatment.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found:

  • there was a history of blockages occurring on the waste processing line, with operators regularly having to enter the trommel to clear materials;
  • the line was not adequately guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery;
  • control systems, including emergency stop controls, were not compliant with relevant standards;
  • management did not adequately monitor or enforce machinery isolation procedures;
  • CCTV showed that what guarding was provided to the trommel was being regularly bypassed by staff, including the site manager.

Stonegrave Aggregates Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations SI 1998/2306. They were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £48,952.

The Director pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was given a 12 month community order. The site manager also pleaded guilty and was given a six month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

HSE inspector Michael Kingston said: "These tragic consequences could have been avoided. This case highlights the importance of implementing effective power isolation procedures when interacting with machinery and the need to monitor compliance to make sure these procedures are followed".

"HSE will not hesitate to prosecute companies or individuals who fail to implement and monitor safe systems of work".