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A court has imposed a significant fine on a recycling firm in Swansea after a worker lost their forearm in an incident involving a conveyor belt.

Working for Neath Port Talbot Recycling, Stephen John sustained his severe injury when trying to clean an area blocked by a viscous, black substance called ‘flak’. One of his gestures was misinterpreted by a colleague and the conveyor belt was switched on. This led to the mishap, which meant his forearm was amputated by the belt.

The recycling firm was obliged to pay a fine of £90,000 and costs of £50,000 because the accident, in May 2011, could potentially have been avoided.

Sarah Baldwin-Jones of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said:

“The company failed to fully guard the conveyor around the tail end roller and this failure resulted in employees having access to dangerous parts of the machine. The risk of entrapment is well-known in the industry, and this company could have taken simple steps to fit guarding.There was also no line of sight between Mr John and the employee operating the machinery and the company failed to carry out a risk assessment when the conveyor was installed.”

Recycling can be a hazardous activity and appropriate workwear is always worn.

The inspector added that the enterprise should also have ensured that workers were trained to clean relevant equipment safely. Experienced personnel like John had to improvise their own methods of cleaning the machine in the absence of instruction.

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