Company hit with massive fine after death of temporary worker

by Direct 2 Lawyers on June 5, 2013

An internationally-renowned company has been heavily fined after a temporary worker was crushed to death at work.

Mr Linas Mataitis started work for European Metal Recycling Ltd in May 2010 and worked as a labourer until the incident occurred on 18 July 2010. On the 18th July he was assisting in the shut-down cleanup for the day when he was struck by the bucket of a wheel-loading shovel at the company’s site in Scrubs Lane, Willesden (in London). The steel bucket pinned him against a steel column. As a result of this incident he received injuries to his head and body – injuries which were so severe that they proved fatal. The incident was subsequently reported to the Health and Safety Executive and an investigation was carried out. This investigation recommended that the company be prosecuted for breaching health and safety laws and the case came to the Southwark Crown Court this week. It is not currently known whether Mr Mataitis’s family is pursuing a claim for personal injury against European Metal Recycling Ltd

On 20 May 2013 the Southwark Crown Court heard that Mr Mataitis had sustained fatal injuries while working for European Metal Recycling Ltd. The Court also heard that he was working – along with a number of other workers – near a large shredding machine and was helping to clear debris away from this machine. This involved Mr Mataitis and the other workers assisting three machines – a bobcat, a mini-excavator and a wheel-loading shovel – to clear the debris. The bobcat and the mini-excavator would place the material in the wheel-loading shovel and the latter machine would then cart the debris away. This operation was proceeding smoothly until the fourth run, when Mr Mataitis was trapped by the wheel-loading shovel and suffered the fatal injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that although the company had a specific procedure to deal with cleaning dirt from around the machines,  this procedure did not account for the opening of the safety gates, for the number of people that were working in close proximity and for the use of the machines. It was therefore found that the company had made insufficient preparations for the movement of that number of machines and persons in the same environment. It was also found that the wheel-loading shovel was being driven by a partly-trained and allegedly unauthorised operative – a fact which was exacerbated by the company’s failure to keep adequate training and supervision records.

European Metal Recycling Ltd pleaded guilty to breaches of s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Court therefore found the company guilty and fined it £300,000, also ordering it to pay costs of £72,901.

Chris Hadrill, employment solicitor at Redmans, commented that “this case demonstrates that its crucial to have the proper policies and procedures in place to ensure that work is carried out correctly – a failure to do so can cause serious harm to employees as well as incurring other losses”.

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