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Sentence following worker’s amputation

A sawmill company has been fined £300,000 after a worker was crushed by a concrete panel.

The 19-year-old worker’s left leg was amputated above the knee following the accident at the Dalbeattie site of BSW Sawmills Ltd on 6 October 2017.

The concrete beam, which was part of a bay wall, collapsed while he and a colleague were on cleaning duties. The company admitted health and safety breaches.

The court heard how the teenager was dragged down by the 1.8 tonne concrete panel, with both his leg and his left arm getting trapped underneath. The HSE’s investigation found that the concrete panel had been in poor condition and held upright by only loose bark and debris on either side of it.

When the bark and debris were removed during the cleaning operation it allowed the panel to fall, trapping the worker. The bay had been modified and sustained damage over a period of time prior to the incident. There were no records or dates kept of the alterations as the company did not record maintenance activity to the bay.

The company’s reporting system failed to identify the risk caused by the condition of the bay for a number of months prior to the incident. This means that anyone in close proximity to it was at risk of injury.

The system of audit and checks of site plant and equipment to address any damage or wear and tear did not apply to the bay at the time of the incident. Had the audits included all areas, the damaged bay could have been identified and the accident prevented.

A number of employees had expressed concerns about the state of the bay prior to the incident.

Alistair Duncan, head of the Crown Office’s health and safety investigation unit, said that by failing to identify the danger posed by the bay, the company had put employees at ‘unacceptable risk’.

“This was an incident that resulted in life-changing injuries that could have been avoided if the appropriate measures had been in place at the time,” he said.

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have devastating consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings.”

BBC News/COPFS September 2021


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