‘No guard’ on Sheffield scrap metal machine

Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson
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THE death of a scrapyard worker killed when part of a gas cylinder shot out of a machine while being compressed might have happened even if a guard had been fitted to the equipment, an inquest heard.

Anthony Johnson, aged 55, died after he was struck in the face by half of a carbon dioxide cylinder hidden inside an aluminium water tank being crushed at Walter Heselwood, Attercliffe.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard the cylinder exploded in the shear-baler machine, sending a chunk of metal flying 100ft across the yard.

Yesterday, jurors heard there was no guard fitted to the machine at the time of the accident in June 2009, but health and safety inspector Robert Marr told the inquest the cylinder could have been ejected even with protection in place.

Mr Marr said: “It could have gone in the same direction, albeit as a ricochet, with a guard fitted.

“It would have had some sort of control, but you would not put in a pack of unknown metal.

“They expect a pre-sort. The guard is designed to reduce the risk.”

The cylinder - filled with gas used to provide fizz for soft drinks in pubs - was concealed in a water tank filled with metal, which Mr Johnson asked colleague Steve Shaw to load into the shear-baler.

Mr Johnson, from Lowedges, was responsible for checking deliveries of metal at the yard for unsuitable items before they were placed in the Taurus shear-baler.

The equipment compressed metal into cubes before chopping it into 2ft lengths.

James Leonard, representing Walter Heselwood, said: “Even if the guard is being used appropriately, in situ, with this machine, an exploded cylinder can escape nonetheless without any contact with the guard at all.”

In a statement read to the court, Kevin Francis, managing director of Engineering Services Bridgend, said he sold the shear-baler to Walter Heselwood in 2003.

He said he was informed the firm was having electrical problems with the machine, and that he visited the scrapyard five days after Mr Johnson’s death.

Mr Francis said: “We discussed the fact there was no guard on it. Machines of this type tend to have guards fitted these days.”

Jurors heard changes have since been made at Walter Heselwood and a guard is now in place.

The inquest continues.