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Worker 'bled to death' after baler incident

Jun 15, 2023Jun 15, 2023

A worker died from blood loss after severing his ankle in a baling machine accident at a recycling plant where safety was "shockingly bad", a court heard this week (21 June).

The boss of Recycle Cymru Ltd (RCL) didn't even have the machine's 78-page safety manual and lied to a health and safety inspector the day before the accident, Mold Crown Court heard.

Managing director Stephen Jones, aged 60 – denies the manslaughter of his employee Norman Butler by gross negligence. His company RCL, which is on the Tir Llwyd industrial estate in Kinmel Bay, also faces a safety charge.

The incident took place on 30 November, and was followed by an investigation by the HSE and the authorities (see story).

The jury heard Mr Butler, 60, of Prestatyn, had only worked for the firm for about a month. His job was to collect cardboard waste and bring it back to Tir Llwyd to put into bales.

Prosecutor Craig Hassall QC said on November 30, 2017 the father-of-three Mr Butler collected waste cardboard in his box van and took it back along the A55 to RCL. He arrived at 4pm.

A conveyor belt sloped up toward the ceiling. Cardboard would go along it and drop into a hopper container, three and a half metres (11ft) off the ground. It would go into the hopper, down a chute and into the hydraulic bailing machine to be crushed into square bales tired with wire, the court heard.

But sometimes there were blockages in the hopper and staff, including the managing director, would walk up the conveyor belt to unblock it.

At the top, some staff held a rope attached to a beam on the ceiling and "jumped" up and down on the cardboard in the hopper, the prosecutor said.

CCTV footage showed Mr Butler walking up the conveyor belt. He may have slipped or fallen into the hopper.

I opened the side door of the chute. Mr Butler was trapped inside. I realised he was dead

– Witness

Witness Paul King said he arrived at 7.18pm and saw Mr Butler's van and the baling machine on. He then noticed blood leaking from the baling machine.

He said: "I opened the side door of the chute. Mr Butler was trapped inside. I realised he was dead." He called an ambulance.

The prosecutor Mr Hassall said Mr Butler's left foot had been severed. He died from blood loss.

"He would have been trapped with no-one to rescue him," he added.

Mr Hassall listed a catalogue of alleged safety failings by Jones and his firm. He said he didn't even have the safety manual for the baling machine nor carry out adequate training or supervision.

The factory floor was "chaotic and cluttered" and safety was "shockingly bad", Mr Hassall said.

The prosecutor also claimed Jones lied to a Health and Safety Executive inspector, who coincidentally arrived to do a spot check the day before the fatal incident, by claiming he was the only person at the company to operate its baling and sorting machine, he claimed.

The alleged lie is important because if it had been true it meant he was not required by law to have paperwork about a risk assessment.

Stephen Jones, of Llanerch Road West, Rhos-on-Sea, claims he spotted Mr Butler on the A55 that day but thought he would simply park his vehicle at RCL and not continue working alone because he had allegedly been told not to work alone.

The prosecution said it was "irrelevant if Mr Butler made an error of judgement himself".

Widely-available safety guidelines warn baling machines are the biggest killer in the industry and can cause "limb amputations".

Jones denies the manslaughter by unlawfully killing Norman Butler due to gross negligence in that as managing director he owed him a duty of care as an employee.

He is also accused of failing to ensure that he was adequately trained to operate the baler, there were safety systems and that employees did not climb the conveyor belt (to clear blockages), that falling into the baler was guarded against, and that Mr Butler did not work alone.

The prosecution claim these breaches of his duty of care were "substantially" the cause of Mr Butler's death.

Jones and Recycle Cymru Ltd deny the offences. The trial, which is expected to last for up to two weeks, continues.

[Report supplied by Daily Post Wales]


Blockages Witness HSE [Report supplied by Daily Post Wales]