Leeds firm ordered to pay substantial fine after death of worker

by Direct 2 Lawyers on July 7, 2013

A Leeds-based firm has been ordered by a court to pay a heavy fine and large costs after a worker died because it failed to properly follow health and safety laws.

AETC Ltd, a Leed-based specialist engineering company, was sentenced by the Leeds Crown Court this month after a worker died from serious head injuries.

Mr Graham Britten, 46, worked for the firm, which specialises in manufacturing products for the aerospace and power generation industries. On 4 November 2009 Mr Britten was inspecting a vacuum casting furnace which had jammed at the company’s factory near Leeds. He found that the sliding doors to the furnace had jammed half-way and was carrying out maintenance work on these when the doors suddenly shut, trapping his head.

The Health and Safety Executive was notified of the accident and investigated. The investigation found that the company had not put in place effective policies and procedures relating to isolation procedures for maintenance work on the furnace and had failed to implement health and safety recommendations from its own health and safety manager. Further, the HSE concluded that the firm had failed to properly and adequately train and supervise the staff that were working in the factory. It therefore recommended that a criminal prosecution be initiated against the company.

The matter came before the Leeds Crown Court on 5 July 2013. AETC Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was therefore ordered to pay a fine of £300,000 and to pay the prosecution’s costs of £77,500.

It is not currently known whether Mr Britten’s family are claiming for personal injury against the firm.

It is not clear as to whether the company’s criminal defence solicitors commented on the matter after the ruling.

Marc Hadrill, a personal injury solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that: “Businesses have a duty to train and supervise their staff adequately so as to ensure that the risk to workers is – so far as is practicable – minimised. If a business fails to do so and this results in injury to its staff then it may face criminal charges.”

HSE inspector Dr Angus Robbins stated after the ruling: “When the valve jammed, air pressure continued to build up in the cylinder that drives the valve such that, when the jam was cleared, the stored energy caused the valve to close rapidly with tragic consequences. Safe isolation procedures with training, supervision and monitoring would have prevented Mr Britten’s needless death.”

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