Prosecutions

NEWS: Clothing recycler fined £650k over reversing death of 76-year-old woman

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A company that specialises in recycling and exporting excess clothing from charity shops has been fined £650,000 after a 76-year-old female worker was struck and killed by a reversing vehicle at its Nottinghamshire warehouse.

Mansfield Magistrates’ Court heard the woman was on her afternoon break and was walking from a vehicle weighbridge towards a smoking shelter in the rear yard at Savanna Rags International’s site on the town’s Forest Road when the incident happened on 26 April 2016. A visiting delivery vehicle was reversing from the weighbridge towards the rear yard to deliver goods when it struck her, causing fatal injuries.

HSE’s investigation found it was common practice at the site for vehicles to reverse from the weighbridge, though it was also used by employees to access the factory. There were no measures in place to adequately segregate pedestrians from moving vehicles and no safe system of work to ensure vehicles could manoeuvre safely.   

Savannah Rags also failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for vehicle movements, the court heard.

Savanna Rags International Ltd of Mansfield pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In addition to the £650,000 fine it was ordered to pay HSE’s full prosecution costs of £3,300.25.

After the hearing HSE inspector Aaron Rashad said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks arising from the movement of vehicles and implement safe systems of work.

“This meant the company failed to put in place a number of simple safety measures including segregating vehicles and pedestrians and reducing the need for vehicles to reverse.

“Sadly, this is the most common cause of fatal injuries in this sector. HSE is currently in the middle of targeting waste and recycling premises with an inspection initiative that will look at certain activities to ensure effective management and control of risk.

“We are calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website. Every worker has the right to return from work safe in the knowledge that their employer takes their health and safety seriously.”

HSE is currently undertaking a programme of proactive, unannounced inspections at waste and recycling businesses across Britain. The industry, which has a statistically higher rate of workplace injury and ill health than other sectors, was recently identified as one of 19 priority sectors for HSE action over the coming five years in support of the Helping Great Britain work well strategy.     

Savanna Rags International collects excess clothing, shoes and textiles from charity shops and public collection banks in England, paying the charities a percentage of the value of the materials collected. The items are sorted and graded at its 48,000 square foot warehouse in Nottinghamshire and exported to countries in Africa and eastern Europe for re-use.

The company’s website states that since October 2010, it has “helped generate £5.5m for charitable organisations”. Its published accounts reveal a turnover of £18.2m in 2016 and profits after taxation of £78,000.

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