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Company fined £12,000 after man loses leg in accident

A CRAIGAVON company has been fined £12,000 after a man lost his leg in an horrific industrial accident.

Beverage Plastics Limited was order to pay the fine, plus £1,111 in costs, for breaches of health and safety regulations that led to the serious injury of a worker employed by a sub-contractor.

The case arose after Gerald Hamill, a 50-year-old mechanic, was seriously injured while disposing of scrap from a skip at Gerald Hamill & Sons’ scrap metal yard in Portadown.

The metal scrap, which had previously been disposed of by Beverage Plastics Limited, included three piston accumulators that had neither been identified as pressure vessels nor that they were still pressurised.

Mr Hamill was processing one of the vessels using acetylene burning gear when the vessel failed, causing an explosive release of energy.  The vessel separated into two parts, one of which struck Mr Hamill on his leg, which was subsequently lost just below the hip.

The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) found that Beverage Plastics Limited did not inform Gerald Hamill & Sons of the nature of the piston accumulators, or that they were still pressurised.

In addition, Beverage Plastics Limited did not assess the risks to their own employees handling the vessels at their workplace, or the risks to persons outside their employment.

Speaking after sentencing, Mr Julian Richmond, an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team, said: “This was a tragic accident that will affect Mr Hamill and his family for many years to come.  So many serious injuries – and one in three fatalities – result from poorly planned and assessed maintenance work.

“Had Beverage Plastics Limited fully decommissioned the vessels after service, including de-pressurising them, then this incident could have been easily avoided.

“This incident reinforces the importance of employers fully planning and assessing maintenance operations, including how those operations might impact on persons not in their employment.”

Beverage Plastics Limited is a soft drink polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle manufacturer based in Craigavon.

The company had previously pleaded guilty at Craigavon Craigavon Crown Court on March 13 last  to breaches of Article 4 and 5 of the Health and Safety at Work Order (NI) 1978 and Regulation 3 (1)a and 3 (1)b of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations (NI) 2000.

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