Landfill firm fined after man lost his legs in 'shocking' accident

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Court Reporter

AN EMPLOYEE at a landfill site lost both his legs after being hit by a large shovel loading machine in a devastating and tragic accident, a court has heard.

Emrys Hughes, a 65-year-old grandfather, worked as a tractor driver at the Bryn Posteg site in Llanidloes, where he took a heavy impact as he walked in the yard and had to have both legs amputated above the knees.

Mold Crown Court  heard on Friday, January 6, that Mr Hughes, a respected employee, life-time driver, keen gardener and part time farmer, will never walk again.

His employers, Sundorn Products Ltd, part of Potters Group, were fined £180,000 with £7,650 costs after admitting a health and safety breach.

Following the incident in November 2015, Mr Hughes was in intensive care for many weeks and in hospital until April 2016, with his partner having to give up work to care for him.

They now live in a specially adapted bungalow in the Llanidloes area.

Prosecutor Craig Morris told the court Mr Hughes was walking in the yard but was in the blind spot of the mechanical shovel driver.

He was struck with force as the vehicle was being driven at some pace to get a momentum to load refuse.

It was described as “an accident waiting to happen” because the yard had no system to separate pedestrians and moving vehicles and no pedestrian walk ways.

Mr Morris said that the company fell well below the required standard and failed to implement practices recognised in the industry to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart.

An investigator viewed CCTV footage from the yard for the previous two weeks and reported that he saw about 90 instances where there were moving vehicles in close proximity to pedestrians in the yard.

Judge Niclas Parry said that the financial penalty was not intended to reflect “the devastating injuries” he had suffered.

He said that events at the site were “truly shocking”, after he saw the tragic events unfold on CCTV. He said he appreciated how dangerous the working environment was.

There was no safe system of work and arrangements to manage pedestrians on the site were largely non-existent, with no pedestrian walkways in the yard and nothing to stop pedestrians and vehicles being in the yard at the same time.

The driver of the loading shovel had been simply unaware of the presence of Mr Hughes who was walking in the yard when he was struck.

“He had not seen him due to a significant blind spot,” he said.

The vehicle struck him with significant force and other employees saw the accident.

Mr Hughes would never work again and the judge said that he had been caused truly life-changing injuries, and the victim would have a life long dependency on a third party for his basic needs.

Judge Parry said the company had fallen “far short” of the required standard.

But there was powerful mitigation, as the employers had fully co-operated with the HSE, pleaded guilty at a very early stage and showed true remorse which was reflected by its continuing support of the victim.

The company immediately installed pedestrian fencing and had appointed a health and safety manager following an audit.

It was re-investing profits back into the company to maintain competitiveness and was providing employment in the rural area.

Defending barrister Ian Dixie said that the company took the case extremely seriously.

It was represented in court by the directors – father and daughter James and Debbie Potter – and its health and safety manager.

Mr Dixie said it was accepted that Mr Hughes suffered truly life-changing injuries and they continued to support him until the civil claim was settled. Liability was not an issue.

He added the company did not ignore safety and it had aspired to do the right thing.

There had been no previous incidents or near misses despite the thousands of vehicles, many of them very large, which attended at the yard.

He said there had been no complaints by employees and the HSE had inspected the site and not drawn any issues to the company’s attention.

The directors believed that things were being dealt with properly but the accident brought home to them that they were not.

It had brought about “a wholesale and rigorous look” at all systems within the company.

They had gone to considerable expense to provide new systems to ensure health and safety was given a high priority.

See full story in the County Times

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