Waste recycling company fined US$315,000 after worker crushed

A waste and recycling company in the United Kingdom has been fined £260,000 (US$315,000) after a worker suffered “severe crush injuries”, as a result of becoming trapped in a waste sorting machine.

The Flex T Track screener involved in the incident Grzegorz Poreba became trapped between the Flex T Track screener’s conveyor and metal bridge.(PHOTO: HSE)

London-based Cappagh Public Works, which provides construction and demolition waste services, supplies recycled aggregates and also operates as a demolition contractor, was issued the fine at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on 20 October 2023.

The company was prosecuted in relation to an incident that occurred on 11 September 2020, in which an employee was severely injured.

An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety - found that the company had failed to take key safety precautions, which ultimately resulted in the devastating incident.

Grzegorz Poreba, a now former employee of Cappagh Public Works, was carrying out maintenance work to the hopper of a giant waste sorting machine - a Flex X Track Screener, when it was inadvertently switched on.

According to the HSE, 48-year-old Grzegorz was thrown onto the sorting machine’s conveyor, becoming trapped between it and a metal bridge.

He suffered multiple injuries as result, which saw surgeons place a total of 23 screws and two plates inside his body.

The regulator said the electrical isolator switch on the machine had been broken and was inoperative at the time of the incident. Furthermore, Cappagh Public Works was also found to have had “no formal maintenance arrangements” for the equipment.

Grzegorz, who has been unable to return to work since, said: “The whole accident has turned my life upside down. I cannot walk or stand for longer than an hour and a half.

“It has been very hard,” he added. “If I could turn back time, I could only wish that the accident had never happened. The doctors have been trying to regain my physical and mental health. The only success so far is that I am not in a wheelchair.”

At its recent hearing, Cappagh Public Works pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the UK’s Health and Safety at Work etc Act. 1974. 

After the hearing, HSE inspector Pippa Knott said: “The fine imposed should underline to everyone in the waste industry that the courts, and HSE, take a failure to ensure that maintenance work is completed safely extremely seriously.

“Grzegorz is lucky to be alive and the incident has left a lasting impression on him.

“We will not hesitate to take action against companies which do not do all that they should to keep people safe.”

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