Falkirk firm fined £33k after worker loses a leg in machine horror

Stirling Sheriff Court.
Stirling Sheriff Court.

A Falkirk scrap metal company which removed a “dead man’s switch” from a car crushing machine has been fined £33,000 after an employee had his leg sliced off.

Local man James Orr became trapped in the machinery in the incident at Angus Braidwood and Son’s yard in Bankside Industrial Estate.

Mr Orr, who was 41 at the time, had his right leg amputated at the thigh after it was caught by a “shearing point” of the “Taurus” baling machine back in April 29, 2016.

Components of the machine included rectangular metal blocks designed to crush scrap cars under huge pressure.

Mr Orr had to undergo four different operations, spent six weeks in hospital and has not worked since.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that he is able to get around using crutches but is unable to drive, play football or go on fishing trips – all things he enjoyed before.

The court was told that around 2pm on the day of the incident Mr Orr, having left the compression cylinder retraction joystick in the “on” position, dropped into the charging chamber to clear a jam in a recess which had stopped the cylinder retracting.

Once cleared, however the cylinder’s retracting movement automatically restarted.

Mr Orr was trapped between the edge of the recess and the compression cylinder, and part of his leg was severed.

He yelled for help and a co-worker shut off the machinery and contacted emergency services.

Prosecutor Fiona Caldwell said: “Mr Orr was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where doctors established that the amputated leg could not be re-attached.

“He now lives in a specially-adapted flat. He doesn’t go out very often as he feels people will look at him and judge him.”

The court was told five years before the accident, the firm had replaced the original “hold to run” control buttons which controlled the compression cylinders on the metal baling machine with non-self-returning joystick controls.

This meant that the operator of the machine did not need to remain inside the control cabin while the baler was running

Mr Orr had twice been reprimanded for entering the charging chamber of the machinery while its motor had still been running, and a month earlier was sent home by the company for doing so.

However, the depute fiscal said the firm was obligated to give their employees full health and safety training and failed in their duty.

She said the company had since installed a rail to prevent direct access to the charging chamber from the operator’s cabin, and reverted back to the hold-to-run system it had before.

Angus Braidwood and Son Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to take effective measures to prevent the movement of dangerous parts of the baler before any part of a person entered a danger zone within it.

It also admitted failing to ensure Mr Orr had received adequate training, which led to him being severely injured, and permanently disfigured and impaired.

The company’s lawyer said the change from button to joystick had been “well-intended” and was to bring the baler into line with other machinery operated by staff.

Imposing the £33,000 fine, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson said Mr Orr’s “significant injury” had a “catastrophic effect”, but added: “I recognise that this adaptation to the original controls was not done in an attempt to cut corners or to save money. It was done so in the very best of intentions and to adopt a consistent process for employees using various types of machinery.

“I take into account the fact this company is in an industry that has a high risk of injury.

“It has not suffered any injuries over the years which come close to the gravity of this incident, and has no previous convictions for breaches of health and safety. These are all mitigating factors.”

The sheriff expressed concern that the case had taken three years and four months to come to court.

Prosecutor and defence cited the “inherent complexity” of the case and a change of personnel in the Crown Office as reasons for the delay.