Kent company fined after employee is crushed to death

The crushing of a vehicle spray painter has led to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution that concluded today.

North Kent Shotblasting Ltd, of Northfleet, in Kent was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court today (Tuesday 29 September 2009) following the death of Nigel Harrison on 20 October 2006. The death occurred at North Kent Shotblasting’s Grove Road site where Mr Harrison was due to seal and paint a large heavy metal plate (975kg).

However, the plate was left unsecured and unstable causing it to fall on top of him. Mr Harrison died from his injuries.

On 5 February 2009, at Maidstone Crown Court, the company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. In court today North Kent Shotblasting Ltd was fined £150,000 and also ordered to pay costs of £24,000.

David Fussell, Health and Safety Executive Inspector, said:

“The fatal injuries to Mr Harrison were easily preventable, and the incident came about through a combination of events, which included the reliance on a fatally flawed system of work and the company’s complete lack of control over employee’s safety. This resulted in employees deciding for themselves on how best to secure these heavy metal plates.

“HSE will not tolerate employers exposing their employees to unacceptable risks at work.

“In this day and age families should not continue to lose loved ones in incidents of this type, and it should not be necessary for each generation to rediscover principles of safety which the generation before already discovered. Crush and trap injuries are a common cause of manufacturing incidents. If North Kent Shotblasting Ltd had carried out an assessment of the risks when working in close proximity to the heavy metal plates, and carried out the cheap and simple safety requirements that were subsequently implemented after the issuing of Prohibition and Improvement Notices, then this incident could have been avoided.

“We must learn from the experience of others rather than learn the hard way. We must pass onto the next generation a record of what we have learnt in securing a safe environment for employees to work in. We cannot allow the same sorts of incidents to continue seriously injuring and killing people.”

More than 8,000 injuries and 24 deaths have occurred in the motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry in the last five years from a variety of causes.