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£260,000 court payout ordered at Ivybridge company where man was crushed

By NeilShaw  |  Posted: October 23, 2012

Richard Zebedee

Richard Zebedee

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A paper mill firm in Ivybridge whose employee was crushed to death as he tried to unclog a cylinder with a “piece of ’Mickey Mouse’ equipment” has been ordered to pay £260,000 in fines and costs.

Arjowiggins Ivybridge Ltd admitted it had breached health and safety duties after father-of-two Richard Zebedee was pulled into the machine as it operated at full speed in April 2009.

Plymouth Crown Court heard Mr Zebedee had only begun working in his new role as a “dryer man” at the mill a fortnight earlier, when he made his way through a safety gate and began prodding the rotating cylinder with a blade attached to a broom handle.

The company said it was not previously aware such a makeshift device existed, and has “an excellent safety record”. But it admitted it had “failed” in some aspects of preventing danger to employees.

The court heard there had been significant production problems on the day of the incident before Mr Zebedee started his shift in the drier area of the mill, with paper breaks and waste material affecting the process.

At one stage in production, Mr Zebedee gained access to the large rollers by opening a gate, which had an unlocked padlock, and used a long-handled tool to clear waste material, known as “broke”. At the time, the rollers were running at production speed of 131 metres a minute.

Mr Zebedee was drawn into the rollers and suffered severe crush injuries. Despite the efforts of fellow workers to free him and administer first aid, he showed no signs of life.

HSE found significant failings by the company in guarding the rollers and in the amount of training given to Mr Zebedee. The padlock on the gate was often left unlocked and staff had reported it to management.

In addition, although he had worked at the mill for a year-and-a-half, Mr Zebedee had only started work as a drierman a fortnight before the incident. He had taken part in training after his eight-hour shifts but several items on his training log had not been signed-off.

The investigation also found other staff had been working inside areas of the machine which should not have been accessed.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Zebedee’s widow, Sarah Zebedee, said:

“Words cannot describe the gap left in our lives by Richard’s death. He loved his family and had taken on this job so he could spend more time with his girls. He was much-loved by family, friends and his colleagues. His untimely death has left us all devastated.

“Today’s court decision can never bring back Richard but does give us a sense of justice. We hope that this HSE prosecution has given Arjo Wiggins food for thought and that they make sure this can never happen again.”

HSE Inspector, Jo Fitzgerald, said:

“Mr Zebedee lost his life in a tragic incident that could have been prevented if basic safety measures had been put in place by the company.

“Fast moving machinery is a well-known hazard and must be properly guarded. Staff must also been given a full level of training when they are expected to work with potentially dangerous machinery.

“In too many companies unsafe practices are tolerated, even if they are not condoned. Managers must take an honest look at how things are done in reality and involve their workforce in identifying problems and improvements.”

Judge Paul Darlow said: “It seems to me that the risk of injury, and death in Mr Zebedee’s case, was clearly foreseeable.

“What seems to be less appreciated by the management was the culture that the operators spoke of (with regards to safety).”

Prashant Popat, for Arjowiggins, said: "The company wants to set out its sorrow and regret for this tragic loss of one of its employees."

He said it was not foreseen that someone in Mr Zebedee's position would gain access to the part of the machine where the accident happened.

Mr Popat added that employees were told not to enter the area while the machine was running. He added shift managers were not aware of the makeshift tool used by Mr Zebedee and others.

Mr Popat said the company had a good safety record and added more than half a million pounds had been spent on improving the infrastructure.

The company proposes to close the mill, where just over 100 people work, in 2014.

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  • Vinnie_Gar  |  October 23 2012, 11:06AM

    Same old problem I think.

    |   -1
  • pauliebob  |  October 23 2012, 10:58AM

    i aint going to bother trying to explain to you what i meant vinnie,-your boring me now,

    |   1
  • Vinnie_Gar  |  October 23 2012, 10:30AM

    pauliebob All I commented on was that your post was made without you being in possession of the facts. Your comment was based on a couple of guesses. jabba Just because compensation wasn't mentioned that doesn't mean there won't be any - absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. It wan't mentioned because it's a civil matter and this article was about a criminal prosecution. Anytthing else you need explaining?

    |   -1
  • pauliebob  |  October 23 2012, 10:03AM

    100% right jabba,thanks,-put a perfectly good point forward and plums like vinnie got to stick his big stirring spoon in to aggravate people with a reasonably good question,i think he gets very bored and got nothing better to do,-go bingo or take up knitting vinnie,-give us all a break!!

    |   2
  • employee  |  October 22 2012, 11:33PM

    ... Judge Paul Darlow said: "It seems to me that the risk of injury, and death in Mr Zebedee's case, was clearly foreseeable. yes it was, but all you see fit to do is impose a £260K fine for blatant and admitted negligence!? This is no deterrent for other such big businesses. Like the FA with John Terry - confiscating this weeks sweeties. A tragic joke. The several that were charged with his/our safety need to hang their heads in shame. I expect they are sleeping easy tonight at the relief the finger was not pointed at them.

    |   -1
  • employee  |  October 22 2012, 11:21PM

    this is a disgrace, the HSE were given all the facts about systematic management failings towards safety. Statements were amended. HSE and our own procedures were being ignored. Locked m/c guards were knowingly left unlocked. As for excellent safety record ... are you kidding!? within a year another employee lost the top of his finger. Years ago an employee lost his arm at the elbow and another was very lucky not to. Hardly excellent. There was more interest in risk assessing the car park than tackling the important issues. At mgmt mtgs when an issue had not been directly assigned to a manager and was 6 wks old it was "lost" off the list as "it cant have been that important". There is a very good reason we are sadly due to close and it is not as we have been briefed, time will prove this. I am very sad we are due to close as it will be a blow to employees as well as Ivybridge but perhaps a blessing in disguise before another serious accident happens. A great guy, husband, dad, son lost his life due to management shortcomings. At least have the decency to be honest.

  • jabbathebutt  |  October 22 2012, 10:55PM

    @vinnie ... did it mention any compensation at this time going to the family - but made sure all their costs were in order ? Durrrrrrrr .... Always on this site people have nothing better to do than argue with another that white is black or black is white just for the sake of a response or something . pauliebob asked a perfectly reasonable question... but gets ridiculed for it . Typical .

    |   3
  • Vinnie_Gar  |  October 22 2012, 7:48PM

    pauliebob How do you know?

    |   2
  • pauliebob  |  October 22 2012, 7:05PM

    yeah,-massive fine for the company,-no-doubt which will go to the government coffers!-what about compensation to this poor blokes family for the loss of a loved one due to company incompetence? i bet they wont get anywhere near that!

    |   4

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