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£25k fine after worker crushed by mini-digger driven by untrained supervisor

 A waste management company in Northern Ireland has been fined £25,000 after an employee at a recycling plant was crushed and seriously injured by the grab attachment of a mini-digger as he unloaded a refuse collection vehicle.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) found that the employee who was driving the mini-digger was neither trained nor authorised to use it.

Working practices at the plant at Mallusk in County Antrim, operated by ISL Waste Management, showed inadequate segregation between vehicles and pedestrians, the HSENI also found.

On 3 October 2017 Grzegorz Mucha was working on the night shift at the plant, Laganside Crown Court in Belfast heard.

Prosecuting for the HSENI, Philip Henry said that the plant was a “significant site”, operating 24 hours a day and employing 65 full time and 40 part time members of staff.

Mucha had worked for the company for seven years, and on the night of the incident reversed a refuse collection vehicle into the unloading area at the plant.

Waste was unloaded and then placed on a low-level conveyor belt, the discharge process requiring the driver to operate controls located at the rear of the vehicle.

According to a report on BelfastLive, Mucha was using a stick to remove waste from the vehicle’s rear flaps when he was crushed against the rear of the refuse collection truck by the grab of the mini-digger.


This incident was entirely foreseeable and could have been avoided had appropriate control measures been put in place 

HSENI principal inspector Kyle Carrick


His injuries included fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a laceration to his liver, requiring the removal of his spleen and renal replacement therapy, usually a type of dialysis.

Henry told the court that Mucha, a Polish national, had returned to Poland after the incident, had not taken part in the prosecution and had not provided a victim impact statement.

According to the prosecution, the mini-digger was being driven by a shift supervisor who was neither trained nor authorised to drive it.

On the night of the incident, the operation was “not adequately supervised,” Henry told the court.

Defending ISL Waster Management, Michael Chambers said that a risk assessment had been in place, but its measures were not being implemented on the night in question, and the shift supervisor should not have been in the mini-digger. 

“If the staff on the floor had been following this risk assessment and had been properly supervised, this would not have occurred,” he said.

ISL Waste Management pleaded guilty to a breach of Article 4(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.

Article 4(1) says it is the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.

Judge Stephen Fowler fined the company £25,000 and ordered it to pay prosecution costs of £1,725.60.

Following the incident, ISL Waste Management had undertaken a major refurbishment of the waste unloading area, and had deployed extra supervisory staff including a production manager on every shift.

All employees have been given video instruction on the correct operation of machinery.

In passing sentence, the judge noted the potential dangers recycling plants, the importance of following risk assessments and ensuring that shifts were supervised. 

He also said that ISL Waste Management was “a firm that does take health and safety seriously, and that can be seen in their actions since this accident occurred”.

After the hearing, HSENI principal inspector Kyle Carrick said: “Loading and unloading activities are high risk activities and often require drivers to leave the safety of their vehicle cab.

“Where drivers may need to leave their cabs to perform essential tasks, such as opening container doors and operating discharge controls, adequate safeguards should be in place to protect them.

“This incident was entirely foreseeable and could have been avoided had appropriate control measures been put in place to maintain an adequate separation distance between vehicles and pedestrians."

The court heard how managers from ISL Waste Management had spent 48 hours at Mucha’s bedside in hospital, thinking that he going to die.

The company also told the court that it continued to pay Mucha his full wage, rather than statutory sick pay, until he stopped submitting medical certificates.


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