• Robert Spicer

Devon paper mill death: £400,000 fine

Death in unguarded machinery: £400,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v DS Smith Paper Ltd (2015) Exeter Crown Court, August 11

DS Smith Paper Ltd has been fined following the death of a worker in unguarded machinery.

Significant points of the case

  • In September 2011 John Stoddart was working at the company’s paper mill in Devon. He was attempting to smooth out felt on a conveyor. He was pulled into the machinery and suffered fatal crush injuries.

  • The deceased was trying to identify a problem which caused creases in large rolls of paper. He climbed onto a work platform to check if the creases were caused by problems with the belt, which was used to squeeze water from wood pulp.

  • It was thought that the deceased was dragged onto the felt belt and then into the machinery below.

  • The company had failed to place any guard around the belt and did not have a suitable risk assessment for work which needed to be carried out to find the cause of creases.

The company was fined £400,000 plus £34,000 costs under regulation 11, Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, for failing to prevent access to a dangerous part of machinery.

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that a proper risk assessment would have highlighted dangers with the machinery and established safe practices for workers instead of putting their lives at risk.

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