Rotherham blast factory worker ‘told to keep quiet’

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A worker employed at a factory where a colleague died in a huge explosion has told a jury he was told to keep quiet about a missing bolt.

Andy Harrison was employed by Sterecycle on Sheffield Road, Rotherham, when his workmate Michael Whinfrey, aged 42, was fatally injured in the blast in 2011.

Michael Whinfrey

Michael Whinfrey

It is alleged maintenance failures, misuse of equipment, bypassing safety devices and inappropriate repairs contributed to the tragedy.

Three managers and the company are on trial at Sheffield Crown Court.

Giving evidence for the prosecution, Mr Harrison said he noticed a bolt was missing on one of the plant’s autoclaves - large vessels which used steam and pressure to break down household waste - about a year before.

He said when he told maintenance manager Kevin Goss, aged 58, about the missing bolt he was told ‘it’s ok, it’s not important. It’s okay to run without it.”

Mr Harrison said following the fatal blast there was a staff meeting and at the end he again mentioned the missing bolt to Mr Goss.

He claimed Mr Goss said: “Don’t mention the bolt. You’ll get in trouble and Mick Whinfrey’s family won’t be entitled to any compensation.”

After a meeting with the company lawyer, he reported the missing bolt to the police.

Describing the work environment, Mr Harrison said: “It’s full of steam and everything is rusty. There are so many things to fix and repair. “There were all these little things that you did yourself off your own back. The maintenance team had that many jobs to do they were busy all the time.”

Sterecycle denies corporate manslaughter while Goss, of Dixon Road, Hillsborough; operations manager Steven Weaver, 39, of Orchard Croft, Wales, Rotherham and operations director Paul Greenwell, 52, of Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk, all deny health and safety breaches.

Goss also denies a charge of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.