Vehicle breakers firm, The Scrappers Ltd and Terry Walker, a consultant for the company, appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester where they denied breaches of health and safety law.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty to health and safety charges in relation to the incident. Terry Walker was acquitted by jury after trial while The Scrappers Ltd was convicted.
The court heard that Mr Aaron Sparrow, an employee at the firm’s Waterloo Road site was working as a ‘spanner man’ which involved taking batteries, wheels, petrol and catalytic convertors (cats) out of the cars in order to be sold on by the company.
On the day of the incident, employees were instructed to start taking the ‘cats’ and batteries off the cars. Giving evidence in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Mr Sparrow told the court he and his colleague raised cars off the ground slightly using a fork lift truck (FLT) where they would remove the wheels and the battery.
The FLT forks were then raised above head height so they could place fuel retrieval equipment under the car to take the fuel out. They would then cut the ‘cat’ off the exhaust using a petrol saw with a metal cutting blade. A number of separate cuts would be made into the exhaust depending on the type of car.
The court was told on that morning they had done this to around 10 cars. However, while taking a catalytic convertor off a car exhaust with the petrol saw above his head, the saw flicked back of the exhaust and spun 180 degrees in his hands before the saw hit him in the face.
He was taken by ambulance to hospital and received over 40 stitches and underwent plastic surgery on his brow and eye lid. He was later told that the saw blade missed his brain by 3mm.
The HSE investigation found there was no record of formal training, and a tool specifically designed for the job was not generally used. There did not appear to be any formal supervision arrangements at the time, and there was no safe system of work in place for operating the petrol saw at the time of the incident.
HSE said the system of work described by workers demonstrated that using the petrol saw in this manner was custom and practice in the company. However the company denied this and told the court this system of work was not allowed and not carried out.
The Scrappers Ltd, of Watling Street Road, Fulwood, Preston was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,687,88.
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