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Baling machine accident at work

Factory with heavy machinery inside
14th May 2014

More than three years after his death, the family of a man who was crushed to death in an accident at work may make a work compensation claim, after his employers pleaded guilty to health and safety failings.

The 40-year-old had been working at Westwood Yarns in Holmfirth, just south of Huddersfield, for 22 years before the accident, which happened in January 2008. He had been instructed to clean the inside of a baling machine at the textile plant when it reactivated with him inside.

He received a number of crush injuries in the accident at work, as he was initially trapped by a horizontal plate, before a vertical compressing ram also activated. A colleague heard the victim's cries of pain shortly after he had begun working in the machine, but despite the workmate pressing the emergency stop button, the 40-year-old died at the scene.

Following an investigation into the accident at work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that managerial safety failings at Westwood Yarns' Washpit Mills factory were responsible for the tragedy, as the man had not been given any proper training in how to clean the baling machine before being instructed to undertake the task.

As a result of this, the HSE found that the machine was left in automatic mode, rather than being shut down completely, so when the victim inadvertently obscured a sensor, this caused the baler to restart with him inside it.

Westwood Yarns was fined a total of £60,000 over the accident at work and were also ordered to pay £20,625 in costs. They could also face further financial penalties if the man's family decide to make a work compensation claim to help them get over their loss.

After the trial at Bradford Crown Court, HSE inspector Kirsty Townend remarked that "this was an entirely preventable tragedy… the company fell well short of its duty to protect employees from a known hazard. Employees were working in a system that allowed poorly controlled work practices to develop, and ineffective monitoring meant these were not picked up and corrected."

The manufacturing industry can be a dangerous place to be according to HSE stats, with 16 per cent of all injuries from accidents at work happening in the sector, despite just nine per cent of the workforce being employed in it. The stats also show that Yorkshire and the Humber has an above average rate of fatalities and major injuries at work, coming in at 123.7 per 100,000 employees, compared to a national average of 102.

Reported by Fiona Campbell