A repeat fatality results in a high fine for an animal processing company

John Pointon and Sons of Cheddleton, Staffordshire an animal processing company have been ordered to pay £660,000 and substantial costs after a welder died working on an industrial oven.

On the 5th November 2011 Mark Bullock, a self-employed welder, was trying to repair an oven at the company premises. The company had not undertaken any operational studies of the equipment, as a result the risk assessment was not properly grounded and failed to deal with all the possibly operational eventualities.

The oven that the welder was working on was adjacent to and shared utilities with another oven. The root cause of the failure was that none of the company’s studies had addressed the effect of work being carried out on one oven when the other oven was being worked on.

Both ovens shared a collection vessel for the processed waste. That vessel exhausted the waste air into two oxidisers. Superheated steam from the functional oven entered the mutual shared collection vessel and passed into the oven Mr Bullock was working on. The superheated steam was designed to purge and sanitise both ovens. Steam was cycled into the oven that Mr Bullock was working on causing him to be badly scalded and as a result he died in hospital the next day.

The company had relied on a generic risk assessment drafted to cover boiler operation for the safe system of work for entering the oven. In short the company had not properly understood, or had in any event not reduced to writing a scheme of operation or method statement for the work being undertaken.

On 29 June, Stafford Crown Court fined John Pointon & Sons £660,000 and ordered it to pay £187,632 in costs after it entered a guilty plea to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act.

In 2007, Pointon was fined £620,000 after a worker died when he fell into a pit of animal waste while trying to rescue a colleague who had slipped into a machine rendering animal carcasses.


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