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Accident claims: crushing death

Car being assembled on factory line
14th May 2014

A County Durham engineering firm has been fined £100,000 after a worker was crushed to death while clearing a jam on a production line, in tragic events that could now see his family seek accident claims.

A 52 year-old father-of-two from Newton Aycliffe, was a multi-skilled fitter at Tallent Automotive Ltd-Gestamp Automocion.

The man died on July 8th 2009 after becoming trapped between a moving carriage and its tracks.

Durham Crown Court heard that he'd been working in the press shop of the company’s Newton Aycliffe plant, which manufactures components for the car industry.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a pneumatically-powered carriage, part of a large press which produced chassis components, had jammed.

The worker was attempting to clear the jam after the carriage had stopped halfway along its tracks. He had opened the interlocked safety gates to gain access within the fenced enclosure of the machine.

This isolated the equipment from the electricity supply, but did not isolate and make safe the pneumatic power element of the machine.

This lack of information from his employer led to the man's death and the subject of potential work compensation claims taking place.

The equipment for controlling movement of the carriage was located within the tracks the carriage ran on, which meant he had to work in a dangerous area in order to try and establish the cause of the jam.

While working on the equipment between the tracks, the carriage moved suddenly and trapped him between the carriage and the support structure at the end of the tracks. He died as a result of traumatic asphyxia due to crush injuries.

The HSE investigation found that there was no safe system for carrying out work within the destacker area, as the pneumatic power for the machinery was not isolated before entering the interlocked enclosure. Although the electrical hazards were recognised by the company, the risks from the pneumatically operated equipment were not.

It was also found that the controls for adjusting the destacker carriage were located in a position of danger. There was also insufficient information available to him to show how the pneumatic supply worked and how he could safely make the necessary adjustments.

HSE Inspector Martin Baillie said:

"In this instance, Tallent Automotive Limited-Gestamp Automocion has instead relied on the training and experience of individuals without providing a safe system of work or adequate information for them. This was a significant cause of the incident which led to" the death.

Posted by Bryony Flack-Crane