Kent waste company fined after worker loses arm

A waste and recycling company has been fined £10,000 for safety failings after a worker lost most of his arm on an unguarded conveyor system at a site in Kent.
Agency employee Vladislavs Golovacs, 45, from Gravesend, was attempting to clear a blockage at Pinden Quarry, in Longfield, near Dartford, when the incident occurred on 20 December 2010. 
Dartford Magistrates heard on Thursday (17 May) that a conveyor belt used to transfer waste into a sorting shed was juddering and virbrating, making sorting difficult, after a driving roller was blocked by stones.

The Latvian national, contracted to work for Orpington-based recycling, skip hire and aggregates company Pinden Limited, which owns the quarry, should have stopped the machine before removing the debris, said the HSE. Instead he removed the stones with the power still running and his left arm became trapped and was torn with extreme force.  It was ripped from his body from between his shoulder and elbow – leaving just a quarter of the limb intact. Mr Golovacs was airlifted to hospital for an emergency operation, but surgeons were unable to reattach his arm. He has been unable to return to work since.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found there was no guarding in place to prevent access to dangerous moving parts on the conveyor. Mr Golovacs had also received no training on how to safely clear blockages.

Pinden Limited, registered to Waldens Depot, Waldens Road, Orpington, Kent, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for these failings. The Act states that: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.”

The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,506 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew McGill said: "This was a horrific incident that was entirely preventable had appropriate guarding been fitted, and had Mr Golovacs been properly trained in how to clear a blockage.  "He knows to his cost that dangerous moving parts should be properly restricted when in operation, and isolated if access is required. However, it was the responsibility of Pinden Limited to ensure that happened – which it clearly didn’t on this occasion. Safe systems of work must be of paramount importance at all times.”

In a statement, Pinden Ltd said: "We accept the court’s decision and shall continue to monitor and implement procedures and checks to ensure we have no repeat of this unfortunate accident.
"Prior to this accident Pinden Ltd had never encountered a serious accident on site in over 25 years of operation. Our dedicated safety team’s priority will be to continue to maintain and improve safe systems of work and ensure our commitment to operating a safe site is enforced and adhered to.
"Pinden Ltd Directors and Staff would like to wish Mr Golovacs well for the future with his continued recovery.
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