Workers’ understanding of safety systems at a recycling plant where a man died “varied greatly”, a trial has heard. Stephen Jones, managing director of Recycle Cymru Ltd (RCL) in Kinmel Bay, is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of employee Norman Butler, 60, from Prestatyn, on November 30, 2017.
The company, which is on the Tir Llwyd industrial estate, recycles waste cardboard and plastic by crushing the material into bales, tied with wire, but a jury has heard safety was “shockingly bad”. The court has already heard that CCTV showed Mr Butler climbing up a sloping conveyor belt.
Waste cardboard would go along it and into a funnel called a hopper. He disappears from view but may have fallen or slipped into the hopper, it is alleged. Mr Butler was found in a shute near a compaction chamber three hours later by colleague Paul King, who rang 999. Today, the jury heard from a mechanical engineer from the Health and Safety Executive who examined the scene.
Andrew Crouch said nobody should walk up the sloping conveyor belt, which carried the waste cardboard, to clear blockages in the hopper. He said they could trip and fall over the side of the conveyor belt or into the hopper.
He told prosecutor Craig Hassall QC: “If you do go into the hopper there is a risk of serious injury or death.” He recommended clearing blockages of large pieces of cardboard from a gantry.
He said at RCL the isolation switches to cut off the electricity supply were not being padlocked, and workers’ understanding of safety systems “varied greatly”. He also noted that the compaction chamber at the bottom of the hopper had a hydraulic ram to crush cardboard into bales with a force of 65 tonnes. There were also bladed shears to cut away excess cardboard.
The court also heard from paramedic Stephen Dowber, who said in a statement that he had been called to Tir Llwyd industrial estate to a report of a patient who had “fallen into a skip” and sustained a “traumatic cardiac arrest”. Mr Dowber said he arrived at the recycling plant in his rapid response vehicle at 7.31pm.
He said: “A male (Mr King) approached my car and said ‘he’s dead’. ” Mr Dowber said he went inside and asked another paramedic, who was there, to ask an employee if the power to the bailing machine could be isolated before he (Mr Dowber) went into it.
He saw two switches being turned off then climbed inside. He said the patient was lying on his back and appeared to be trapped. Rigor mortis had set in and there was a pool of blood inside the machine. He carried out checks and recorded that life was extinct.
Meanwhile a consultant pathologist, Dr Mared Owen-Casey, told how she carried out a post mortem examination into Mr Butler’s death. She said his left foot had been completely amputated above the ankle and that on his right heel the muscle and bone were partially exposed. She said he also had “blood-stained hands” and was “very pale” which indicated a massive loss of blood.
She said: “Mr Butler died due to massive blood loss due to amputation of the left lower leg.”
The defendant Stephen Jones, 60, of Llannerch Road West, Rhos-on-Sea, Conwy, denies manslaughter by gross negligence. His company Recycle Cymru Ltd, of Kinmel Bay, deny contravening a health and safety regulation. The trial continues.
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