A waste management company based in Mallusk has been fined £25,000 for a health and safety breach which resulted in an employee sustaining serious injuries.
The ISL Waste Management employee was crushed between a bin lorry and the arm of a JCB which was being driven by an untrained member of staff.
Belfast Crown Court heard how Grzegorz Mucha, a Polish national, almost lost his life as a result of the incident, which occurred at 7pm on October 3, 2017.
As a consequence ISL’s waste unloading area, where the accident occurred, has undergone major refurbishment and all staff are now shown videos which detail how to operate the machinery correctly.
Extra staff have also been deployed to supervise the supervisors on each shift.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC fined the company £25,000 and ordered it to pay court costs of £1,725.60 after there was an admission that as an employer it failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees.
Crown prosecutor Philip Henry said ISL Waste Management’s business premises at Mallusk was on a “significant site,” was a 24-hour operation and employed 65 full-time and 40 part-time members of staff.
In October 2017 Mr Mucha had worked at the company for seven years, and on the evening in question he was working the night shift.
Mr Mucha was in the waste lorry unloading area, where waste was emptied then placed onto a sunken conveyor belt. He was standing at the rear of his bin lorry and was using a stick to remove residue from the flaps at the back of the vehicle when he was crushed between the lorry and the bucket of a JCB.
The latter vehicle was being driven by a shift supervisor, who was neither trained nor authorised to drive the digger.
When the supervisor realised he had crushed Mr Mucha, an ambulance was called and he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He sustained serious injuries including fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a laceration to his liver. He also had his spleen removed and underwent renal replacement therapy.
Mr Henry confirmed that since the incident Mr Mucha had returned to Poland, didn’t take part in the prosecution process and did not provide a victim impact statement.
The prosecutor also confirmed that when an investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive that evening, ISL Waste Management co-operated both with the executive and the PSNI.
Mr Henry said the employee who drove the digger was not trained to do so, adding that on the night of the incident “this was not adequately supervised”.
Defence barrister Michael Chambers said: “When something like this occurs, it’s always possible to go back through risk assessments and identify things that could have been better – and that’s what’s happened in this case.”
Telling the judge this was not a case which involved a failure to carry out risk assessments, Mr Chambers said: “If the staff on the floor had been following this risk assessment and had been properly supervised, this would not have occurred.”
The defence barrister said the employee who drove the digger that night was not trained and “should never have been in the JCB”.
Regarding Mr Mucha, Mr Chambers said the management at ISL thought he was going to die, spent 48 hours at the hospital at his bedside, and also paid him his full wage – as opposed to statutory sick pay – “until he stopped submitting his medical certificates”.
Judge Fowler noted that while ISL had admitted the breach, it is “a firm that does take health and safety seriously, and that can be seen in their actions since this accident occurred”.