Waste management company director jailed for crush death

Published: 8 Nov 2018

Two owners of a recycling and waste company in Liverpool have been jailed for the death of a 39 year old worker who died while working on a waste crushing machine.

In 2010 Zibigniew Galka was working for Gawkells Waste services. He was working on a baller which compresses recycling and waste into small blocks. On the day of the accident Zibigniew entered the baller when it became locked and it automatically re-started causing serious head and leg crushing. Due to these injuries Mr Galka died on the way to hospital.

After this accident the HSE and Merseyside police department investigated the incident and found that there had been poor maintenance on the machine which had left the safety interlocking system defective. This meant that operators of the machine had to override the safety mechanism and manually unblock the machine.

The HSE was informed in 2015 that the site was still using the machine so revisited the site. The company was using the machine with the guard left open leaving employees at serious risk.

During the court hearing this ongoing practice was highlighted to the judge and was noted to be a serious aggravating factor upon sentencing.

Jonathan Gaskell pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was sentenced to 8 months in prison, the company was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £99,886.57.

The HSE inspector after court stated:

“This incident was completely avoidable and it is inconceivable that Gaskells continued to operate the same dangerous machine in the way it did for as long as five years after this incident.”

This horrendous incident could have clearly been avoided. Due to poor maintenance and poor H&S practices a man lost his life.

A large number of sites have crushing or dangerous equipment and it is very important to ensure their safe use.

For all dangerous equipment at site please ensure the following:

  • All dangerous equipment is named on a dangerous equipment log
  • The equipment is risk assessed and all control measures are followed, including producing a safe system of work for using and maintaining the machine
  • The equipment has onsite visual checks carried out to ensure it is in good condition with all safeguards fitted, and free from defects. The term ‘safeguarding’ includes guards, interlocks, two-hand controls, light guards, pressure-sensitive mats etc.
  • The equipment is serviced by an external company (how often depends on the equipment/servicing contract)
  • Staff are trained in the use of the equipment and only trained staff operate equipment

CSC can help you with your risk assessments and on-going compliance checks. Avoid unnecessary accidents and contact us to discuss how we can help you.