A third company has been fined over £10,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation which resulted in a young worker tragically losing an arm.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC, said that the tragic accident had a castastrophic impact on the life of Mr Thomas McAreavey.
Judge Kerr fined Balloo Hire Centre Ltd a total of £13,500, plus costs, over £1,000 more than their co-accused firms, for failing, at the first opportunity to admit their liability to the two separate breaches.
Mr McAreavey was working alongside his father on October 11, 2011, for Scott Ferguson Building Company. They were laying a new play park surface at St Bernadette’s Primary School, Belfast.
He was using an unguarded paddle mixer when his left arm caught in the paddles. His arm was torn off by the machine and unfortunately surgeons were unable to save the limb.
Prosecutor David McAughey said that the 26-year-old paddle mixer was totally unsuitable for the mixing of the rubberised solution for the playground, although Balloo Hire had advertised it as such.
The Health and Safety Executive investigation also found the openings in the guard were too large and, of most concern, it could be operated with them open, thereby exposing the dangerous moving paddles.
Defence lawyer Gavyn Cairns said the Sydenham Road centre had cross-hired the machine from one of their co-accused J.B. Plant, although he accepted that Balloo had advertised the mixer as suitable for the work inhand.
However, the lawyer said that the company, which had an unblemished safety record both before and since the accident, wished to tender their unreserved and unqualified apologies to Mr McAreavey.
After the hearing, Karen Robinson, an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team said: “This accident has had the most profound and devastating consequences for Mr McAreavey. Guards and safety systems are there for a reason, and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times”.
She added that injuries from inadequately guarded machinery, “happens far too regularly,” and that this tragic accident, shows that the, “importance of robust safeguards to protect workers gaining access to dangerous moving machinery cannot be overstated. A dangerous machine like this one should never have been hired or used.”