Prosecutions

NEWS: Waste boss given suspended jail term over machine death

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The director of a waste recycling company has been given a 12-month suspended prison sentence after admitting he knew of the “dilapidated and dangerous” state of a waste sorting machine into which an employee was dragged and crushed to death.

Jagbir Singh, 38, sole director of Birmingham-based Master Construction Products (Skips) Limited (MCPS), was also ordered to undertake 300 hours’ community service and disqualified from being a company director for eight years after pleading guilty to a health and safety offence over the death of 29-year-old Safi Qais Khan. MCPS Ltd, which is now in liquidation, admitted corporate manslaughter and a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £255,000.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how Mr Khan fell into and became entangled in the machine, known as a trommel, at the company’s site in Sparkhill in January 2015. Although a colleague attempted to perform CPR, Mr Khan died at the scene of serious crush injuries to his head and upper chest.

An inspection by HSE found “essential” guards had been removed in several places - making the machine’s drive chain and conveyor belts accessible. There was also no emergency stop button and the machine was surrounded by uneven and waste-strewn ground. There was a “realistic hazard” of a worker slipping or falling into the unguarded parts, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which took the case.

Singh (pictured), who was responsible for health and safety at the company, admitted he was aware of how the firm operated the trommel. The court heard evidence from an employee that when he started work at MCPS, Singh had failed to explain the risks posed by working with the trommel and failed to give any instructions for working safely. Another employee who was paid to maintain the waste firm’s machinery and lorries, including the trommel, admitted he had no formal qualifications or certificates as a mechanic.

The company also failed to act on a series of warnings, including a letter from a health and safety consultant in 2009 recommending an immediate risk assessment for the trommel.

Commenting after the case, detective constable Mark Harrison of West Midlands Police - which led the investigation into Mr Khan’s death with support from HSE - said: “It was almost inevitable that somebody was going to be seriously injured or killed, given that the company prioritised cost-cutting over safety. A culture of negligence resulted in this sad loss of life.”

Michael Gregory, a senior specialist prosecutor at the CPS, said: “MCPS Ltd let the trommel and the area around it fall into a dilapidated and dangerous state. Little thought was given by the company to the safety of its employees when working at the machine.

“Singh admitted the offence after the CPS successfully showed how senior leaders’ management of the machinery played a substantial part in Mr Khan's death.”

In addition to the 12-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years, Singh was ordered to pay £11,500 in prosecution costs.

Master Construction Products (Skips) Ltd went into liquidation in April 2015, according to Companies House records.

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