Recycling firm in Harlesden ordered to pay £370k after worker crushed to death
- Credit: Archant
Linas Matailis was killed almost instantly at the European Metal Recycling (EMR) plant in Scrubs Lane
A recycling firm in Harlesden has been ordered to pay more than £370,000 in fines and costs for breaching safety rules resulting in a worker being crushed to death.
Linas Matailis was killed almost instantly when the 35-tonne loading shovel hit him before crashing into the beams holding up an overhead conveyer belt at the European Metal Recycling (EMR) plant in Scrubs Lane, on July 18, 2010.
Today at Southwark Crown Court, the company admitted breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act following the death of the 25-year-old,
The court heard Lithuanian-born Mr Matailis had joined the company two months earlier as a temporary worker.
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He was working near a large shredding machine that had been powered down for essential annual maintenance, with surrounding safety zones and interlocking gates opened up to allow worker and vehicle access.
Mr Matailis was one of a team of workers using hand shovels to scrape and clear dirt near conveyors feeding the shredder, which they placed into piles for colleagues using machines to clear.
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On the fateful morning there were three vehicles operating alongside the team on foot; a bobcat, a mini excavator and a wheeled loading shovel.
The smaller machines were being used to fill the bucket of the loading shovel, which then drove away to be emptied.
The court heard the loading shovel was returning to be refilled for a fourth time when it struck Linas and crushed him against a conveyor support.
A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although EMR had a documented procedure for clearing dirt from around the conveyors, which mentioned the use of a bobcat, it did not cover the shutdown operation when the safety gates were open, when more vehicles were operating nearby and when there was increased pedestrian movement.
As such, there were inadequate arrangements for safely managing the movement of people and machinery.
HSE also established that the loading shovel was being driven by a partly trained operator who may have been unauthorised to use it. The company had confusing and conflicting records in this regard, highlighting failings to properly manage and audit training and supervision.
EMR, whose headquarters are in Cheshire, are one of the world’s largest recycling firms in Europe.
After the hearing, Jane Wolfenden, HSE Inspector, said: “Linas’ tragic death was entirely preventable. European Metal Recycling, as one of the world’s largest recycling companies, should have been fully aware of its health and safety duties, and of the clear risks presented by vehicle and pedestrian movements.
“As a consequence of the company’s failings Linas’ family continue to grieve the loss of a son, brother and partner.”
Donata Gerulyte, Mr Matailis’ grieving girlfriend, said: “It’s almost three years since Linas was killed at work, but it still feels like it happened yesterday such is the hole it has left in our lives.
“His parents have lost their only son, who they hoped would support them as they grew old and who would one day take over the small family business in the Lithuanian village where we grew up. I know that was his dream also once we started our own family together.
“Life is slightly easier for me because I have my own work to keep me busy and family and friends to comfort me. Things are slowly returning to normal, but I will never, ever forget him, or what happened.”