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Large fine for heating firm after worker crushed to death

A Wednesbury-based HVAC manufacturer has been fined £150,000 after a worker was crushed to death while working in its warehouse.

Ronald Meese, 58, of Bilston, a production supervisor for Roberts-Gordon Europe, of Kings Hill Business Park, Darlaston Road, Wednesbury, had been stacking 3 m-long metal tubes in the warehouse in Darlaston Road, Wednesbury, when the incident happened on 27 July 2011.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated and prosecuted his employers Roberts-Gordon Europe for safety failings at Wolverhampton Crown Court

The HSE investigation found there were no restraints nor any racking to support the tube stacks and the timber used to separate them were not a standard size.

The source of the timber used for the task was not controlled by the company.

Mr Meese, who had been with the company for 34 years, was a trained forklift truck driver but neither he nor his colleagues had been given specific training or instruction on stacking the tube bundles. There was also no risk assessment in relation to the task.

Roberts-Gordon Europe was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 costs, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Carol Southerd said: “This was a tragic and needless death that could have easily been avoided if there had been an assessment of the risks relating to unloading the tubes and adequate safety measures taken.

“Falls of heavy materials from above head height is a common problem and often leads to death or serious injury. Unsupported stacking of heavy materials is an unacceptably high risk in areas where pedestrian access is allowed.

“Storage racking should be used. It is necessary to prevent stored material from falling unexpectedly. If this is not possible, safe areas, such as overhead protected walkways, must be provided to allow access.”

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