Furniture company ordered to pay nearly £300,000 after man's legs are crushed in a machine

Published 15th May 2018

compactor

A furniture company has been ordered to pay nearly £300,000 after a warehouse worker’s legs were crushed in a compactor at a Wednesbury factory.

Colleagues described how the man screamed for help after being crushed by the machine at Furniture Village’s factory at Wednesbury Trading Estate in June 2013. He suffered lower leg fractures to both limbs.

The company, which pleaded guilty under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £266,667, ordered to pay costs of £31,000 and a £140 victim surcharge.

The fine, handed down by Judge Ward at Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday (Monday 14 May) included a reduction of one third owing to the firm’s early guilty plea.

The court heard that the employee got into the compactor to clear out trapped rubbish. His legs were crushed in the machine - though fortunately he made a full recovery.

After the accident, investigating officers from Sandwell Council’s environmental health team found a number of issues with the compactor.

Furniture Village had requested the manufacturer of the compactor supplied a machine that could compact large pieces of furniture without the lid being closed while it was operating.

However, the company had stopped compacting large items of furniture 12 months before the incident happened. Since that time, the compactor had been used to compact rubbish, such as polystyrene, packaging and plastic wrapping.

The court heard that Furniture Village had not provided an up-to-date risk assessment for dealing with that type of waste and employees were routinely having to unblock the compactor or use other items to push the waste down into the compactor.

It was also found that the gas struts supporting the lid of the compactor had failed on several occasions and there was a fault with the compactor’s limit switch. Instead of stopping as it should have done after one or five cycles, the compactor cycled continuously and didn’t stop.

Sandwell Council officers served a prohibition notice prohibiting the use of the compactor following a visit after the accident in June 2013.

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for public health and protection Councillor Elaine Costigan said: “Sandwell Council takes health and safety breaches very seriously.

“Employers have a duty to ensure that there are no risks to the safety of their employees or to other people who may be affected by their activities which clearly did not happen in this case.

“It is important that those responsible for health and safety breaches are called to account for their actions and following a detailed investigation by council officers, the company admitted they had been in the wrong,” she added.

“We welcome the sentencing in this case and we’re also very happy that the employee who was injured made a full recovery.”