A Variety of Errors that Lead to the Death of Worker from a Refrigeration Company

A refrigeration company has been fined £110,000 after a worker was killed when an unsecured racking unit collapsed on him.

Jim Murphy was working for George Baker & Co (Leeds) Ltd at the firm’s factory in Idle, Bradford, when the incident took place on 1 December 2009.

The 61-year-old had been asked to help dismantle a stacking system as part of a reorganisation of that area of the factory. The racking was not bolted to the floor and employees were using it to store components, which made it increasingly unstable.

Mr Murphy was kneeling on the floor and removing labels from various parts, when one of the racking units toppled over and landed on him. His head hit a raised part of an adjacent machine and he was trapped underneath the overturned racking system. He died as a result of the head injuries he sustained.

HSE inspector Morag Irwin investigated the incident and found a number of safety failings. There was no system in place to safely move or inspect the racking, no indication of its maximum load, and workers weren’t trained in how to do the work.

Inspector Irwin said: “Sadly, the case was based on a catalogue of errors on the part of the company. There was no system to manage the racking, no identification of the racks and no inspection regime. No one had properly looked at the risks of the racking system, or how to move it and re-install it safely. People joined in and helped out as and when.

“But, most importantly, there was nothing to identify that the racking was not in use – no warning notice, or barrier tape. At some point, workers started to fill it. The more it began to fill, the more dangerous it became.”

George Baker & Co (Leeds) Ltd appeared at Bradford Crown Court on 6 September and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay £30,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it cooperated with the investigation and worked closely with the HSE to create a safe system of work.

After the hearing, inspector Irwin added: “I hope this case serves as an important reminder to companies to make sure racking systems are securely fixed and measures are in place to manage them carefully and, in particular, when they are being dismantled.”

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