A Sheffield scrap metal firm has been fined £160,000 after the ‘avoidable’ and ‘unnecessary’ death of a worker.
Anthony Johnson, aged 55, was killed after a gas cylinder exploded ‘like a rocket’ and struck him in the face at Walter Heselwood Ltd in Attercliffe.
Sheffield Crown Court heard the cylinder exploded in the shear-baler machine, sending a chunk of metal flying 100ft across the yard damaging nearby vehicles.
Craig Hassell, prosecuting, said a guard was not fitted to the shear-baler which would have slowed down or stopped the ejection of metals.
Mr Johnson, of Toppham Road, Lowedges, was standing well away from the machine when the metal flew off.
He died of head injuries sustained in the accident on June 19, 2009.
An inquest ruled accidental death in 2011.
The court heard from eye-witnesses who heard a ‘loud boom’ and explosion before seeing Mr Johnson lying ‘face down’ on the floor.
Mr Johnson’s family described him as a lovable rogue in a victim impact statement read to the court.
They said: “He looked out for us all. There is not one day where we don’t think about him. We miss him terribly.”
Another relative said: “He was a lovable rogue. He could always be relied upon when needed. I didn’t need to see him every day or week because he was always there.”
Mr Hassell added: The family conceded that accidents happen but his sister feels it was an unnecessary death and this should have been prevented.”
The company pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and non-employees. Paul Rogers, defending, told the court the firm ad pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. He said: “The company would like to start with sincere condolences to the family of Mr Johnson for this very difficult and tragic case. Even though this happened some years ago the wounds surrounding his death are still fresh.
“This is not a company that put profit before health and safety and has co-operated at every opportunity.
“Everything has been put in place to stop something like this happening again.”
Mr Rogers said the firm had introduced extra preventative measures such as a blast wall and had re-fitted the guard.
Judge Michael Murphy QC said: “I’ve been practising law in Sheffield for 43 years and this company has never come across me, it is a good honest company in my view.
“This was a terrible tragedy which resulted in a fatal accident. This happened as long ago as 2009 which, in my view, with no fault of the defendant, has gone on for far too long.
“The death has left a huge void in the family and in my view was an avoidable and unnecessary death which in words of his sister, should not have happened. This cylinder went off like a rocket, it was a missile. The risk assessment should’ve been followed through. This was a serious, serious breach of duty.”
The company was fined £120,000 with costs of £40,000.