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A global manufacturer has been fined £180,000 after a worker was killed at an Andrex factory in Barrow-in-Furness.
Christopher Massey, a former Barrow Raiders rugby player, was struck by a piece of machinery while working on a night shift at the Kimberly-Clark plant on Park Road on 8 November 2007.
The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found a dangerous part of a machine, used to produce rolls of Andrex toilet paper, had been left unguarded.
Preston Crown Court heard the 28 year old had been looking through a gap in the machine to make sure the tissue was being fed through correctly.
As he checked inside the machine at around 5.10am, it began to move a large, two-metre wide reel of tissue into place, striking him on the head. His body was discovered around twenty minutes later by colleagues shortly before the end of their shift.
The HSE investigation found the machine had been modified four months earlier so that reels of two-ply as well as single-ply toilet paper could be fed through it.
The part of the machine used to hold the large reels of tissue had been moved back so that another piece of machinery could be added to handle the two-ply toilet paper. This created a potentially dangerous gap which Mr Massey and other workers had used to check the tissue was being fed through correctly.
The court was told the factory had been short-staffed on the night of Mr Massey’s death, with two of the four workers in the team off sick. He was moved to work on the part of the machine that fed through the giant reels, despite not having had training on how to operate it since its modification.
The gap in the machine gave him the best vantage point to check the tissue, and none of the workers had been told it was not safe to stand in that position. Following his death the company fitted two sheets of clear plastic over the gap which allowed employees to check the machine without being put at risk.
David Massey, Christopher’s father, said: “Never a day goes by when we don’t think of our son, Christopher. We are still struggling to come to terms with his death. The pain will always be with us.
“He had so much to live for. We’ll never know or understand the reasons why he had to live a life so short. And still, four years on, it is hard to comprehend what happened. He went to work and didn’t return home.
“Now, not a day goes by that we don’t visit Christopher’s grave. It evokes only sorrow and unbearable memories. We will go to our graves not ever being given the chance to say goodbye to him.
“We still celebrate Christmas but that empty chair remains a constant reminder of the wonderful close-knit family we once had, but now no longer feels complete.
“We struggle to come to terms with Christopher’s death on a daily basis. Nothing can replace him being here and dying like that. Not even the memories.”
Kimberly-Clark Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of its employees. The company, of Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, was ordered to pay £20,000 in prosecution costs in addition to the fine of £180,000 on 14 December 2011.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Mark Dawson said: “Significant modifications were made to this machinery which resulted in the creation of a dangerous trap point. Kimberly-Clark failed to notice this and, as a result, a young man in his prime was killed.
“None of the workers at the factory had received training on how to use the machine after it had been modified, or on how to safely check the tissue was being fed through correctly. This meant that, for several months after the modification, their lives were put at risk.
“Tragically, Chris Massey lost his life when he looked inside the machine at the moment when it moved a new reel into place. If all of the dangerous parts on the machine had been properly guarded then his life could have been saved.”
Mr Massey was one of 29 workers to be killed while working in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain in 2007/8. More than 5,000 workers also suffered major injuries. Information on improving manufacturing safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.