A recycling company has been fined after a worker was killed after likely being thrown from a six-tonne dumper truck.
Ben Sewell (30), from Dartmouth, was found lying on his back on a bank, a few metres behind the overturned dumper, on a sloping dirt track at Dittisham Recycling Centre in September 2012. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the South Devon firm after an investigation found that Mr Sewell had not been properly trained by his employer to use the vehicle. The company had also failed to properly enforce the wearing of seat belts fitted to the dumpers.
Plymouth Crown Court heard that HSE’s investigation uncovered a catalogue of dangers at the Dittisham Recycling site and served a total of eight Prohibition Notices on the company preventing its use of various plant and machinery until adequate safety measures were taken.
The court was told that on the day of the incident Mr Sewell was using the dumper to take loads of oversized material from one part of the centre to another. The extensive site sits in a steeply sided valley. At one point he stopped at the top of the site to deal with a customer before setting off in his empty dumper down to the bottom of the site along the main dirt track.
The customer noted the truck was going at speed and that Mr Sewell was not wearing the seat belt. Minutes later, a colleague at the bottom of the site noticed smoke rising from a section of the dirt track above where he was working and he could just see the overturned dumper. He rushed to the scene and found Ben lying on his back at the side of the track.
HSE found a series of safety failings with other dumper trucks, a tracked excavator and with processing machinery for rock crushing and screening. Tipping operations were also unsafe and some of the roadways about the site were inadequately protected. Inspectors issued two Improvement Notices requiring safety changes to the site’s roadways and tipping safety measures.
Having taken into account the current financial circumstances of the company, the Judge ordered Dittisham Recycling Centre Ltd to pay a fine of £50,000 and also ordered them to pay £25,000 towards the prosecutions costs for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
HSE inspector David Cory said, “The lack of competent training, poor monitoring and inadequate supervision of staff added up to a fatal combination. Although there were no witnesses, his injuries were consistent with being thrown from the truck. Dumper trucks are inherently unstable and dangerous machines to operate and the company had not enforced the necessary rules to make sure they were driven safely, including the full and proper use of the seat lap belts.”