Worker bled to death after getting trapped in machine at recycling plant

A worker bled to death after he got trapped in a machine and severed his ankle at the recycling plant he worked on.

At Mold Crown Court, managing director Stephen Jones, 60, denied the manslaughter of his employee Norman Butler by gross negligence.

The jury was told how Butler, 60, of Prestatyn, had only worked for the firm for about a month, with his job being to collect cardboard waste and bring it back to Tir Llwyd to put into bales.

The court heard how safety was “shockingly bad” at the recycling plant, Wales Online reports.

It was so poor that the manager of Recycle Cymru Ltd (RCL) didn’t even have the machine’s 78-page safety manual to hand and lied to a health and safety inspector the day before the accident.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall QC said Mr Butler, a father-of-three, collected cardboard in his van on November 30, 2017, and took it back along the A55 to RCL.

A conveyor belt sloped up toward the ceiling. Cardboard would go along it and drop into a hopper container, three and a half metres off the ground. It would go into the hopper, down a chute and into the hydraulic bailing machine to be crushed into square bales tired with wire.

But sometimes there were blockages in the hopper and staff, including the managing director, would walk up the conveyor belt to unblock it. At the top, staff held a rope attached to a beam on the ceiling and “jumped” up and down on the cardboard in the hopper, the prosecutor said.

CCTV footage showed Mr Butler walking up the conveyor belt. He may have slipped or fallen into the hopper. Witness Paul King said he arrived at 7.18pm and saw Mr Butler’s van and the baling machine on. He then noticed blood leaking from the machine.

He said: “I opened the side door of the chute. Mr Butler was trapped inside. I realised he was dead.” He called an ambulance.

Mr Hassall said Mr Butler’s left foot had been severed. He died from blood loss.

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The prosecutor then listed a catalogue of alleged safety failings by Jones and his firm. He said he didn’t even have the safety manual, nor carry out adequate training or supervision. The factory floor was “chaotic and cluttered” and safety was “shockingly bad”.

Mr Hassall also claimed Jones lied to a Health and Safety Executive inspector, who coincidentally arrived to do a spot check the day before the fatal incident, by claiming he was the only person to operate its baling machine. The lie is important because if it had been true it meant he was not required by law to have paperwork about a risk assessment.

Mr Jones is also accused of failing to ensure Mr Butler was adequately trained to operate the baler, there were safety systems and that employees did not climb the conveyor belt, that falling into the baler was guarded against, and that Mr Butler did not work alone.

The prosecution claim these breaches of his duty of care were “substantially” the cause of Mr Butler’s death.

Jones and Recycle Cymru Ltd deny the offences. The trial continues.

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