Cleaner’s crush death prompts £140,000 fine

A Rochdale plastics manufacturer has been fined £140,000 after a Portuguese cleaner was crushed to death by a pallet of bags weighing nearly one and a half tonnes.

TS (UK) Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE following the incident at the Stakehill Industrial Estate in Middleton for failing to ensure the safety of its employees, and not having a worker trained in First Aid on duty.

Manchester Crown Court heard that Abel Lages was cleaning up a spillage in the yard on 15 July 2005 when a wooden pallet, containing 55 bags of polypropylene, fell on him.

The material, which is used to manufacture washing up bowls, buckets and other plastic products, is dangerous to stack as it can pour out if there is a tear in a bag, making the stack unstable.

Mr Lages, 38, was found trapped under one of the collapsed pallets and died from his injuries at the scene.

John McGrellis, one of HSE’s Principal Inspectors for Greater Manchester, said: “Mr Lages died because TS (UK) Ltd didn’t treat the health and safety of its workers as a priority. There were labels on the polypropylene bags that made it clear how they should be stored safely but this advice was ignored.

“The company didn’t provide guidance about how to stack the pallets, and no one trained in First Aid was on duty to help try to resuscitate Mr Lages when the pallet fell on him.

“Since Mr Lages’ death, TS (UK) Ltd has changed how it stores pallets so that it no longer stacks them on top of each other. If this action had been taken previously, Mr Lages may still be alive today.”

TS (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 3(2) of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981.

The company was fined at Manchester Crown Court on 7 July and ordered to an additional £10,588 towards the cost of the prosecution.

There were 32 deaths and 22,407 serious injuries in the manufacturing sector last year.