Firm fined over ex-paratrooper's death in industrial blender

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The Independent Online

A firm was fined £20,000 after a worker died when he climbed into an industrial blender to clean it and it was switched on by another employee.

Decorated ex-paratrooper Paul Palmer, 44, had spent 13 years in the Army, serving in the Falklands and Bosnia, but was killed by the machine where he worked at the building materials factory.

Today the firm, Building Chemical Research (BCR) Ltd and its company director, Stuart Reich, 62, were fined a total of £20,000 at Bolton Crown Court after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety law at the factory in Bury, Greater Manchester.

Mr Palmer, a father of one from Radcliffe, Bury, climbed into the machine, a powerful, slow speed mixer, to clean it when it was switched on by another worker.

But it should have been impossible to turn on the machine while someone was inside, the court heard, but two safety cut-out switches failed to do their job.

Mr Palmer, an experienced worker at the firm who trained other staff, was killed by the mixing machine's blade after suffering multiple injuries.

He was brought up in Holywell in North Wales and served in the Falklands, Bosnia and Kuwait during his 13 years in the army.

He joined the elite 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment where he rose to the rank of sergeant and won five medals of honour.

His brother, Ted Palmer, said: "Paul was just a happy-go-lucky chap. Not a lot fazed him; he just took everything in his stride.

"It just seems wrong that he survived over a decade in the army and then was killed by a machine in a factory.

"I can't understand how manufacturing companies can become complacent over health and safety in this day and age. I just hope highlighting Paul's death will stop it happening to someone else.

"My other brother, John, died from an asbestos disease a few years before Paul, and their deaths have really devastated our family."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought today's prosecution following the accident on August 30, 2005.

BCR Ltd was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £8,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.

The company's director, Mr Reich, of Gisburn Road, Gisburn, Lancashire, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,000.

Both admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees.

HSE inspector Alan Meyer said: "This was a totally avoidable incident that resulted in the tragic death of an employee. The guard on the mixer was totally inadequate and both the safety switches failed.

"Had the machine had a proper guard and a working cut-out switch, Mr Palmer would still be alive today."

More than 3.2 million people are employed in the manufacturing sector in Great Britain, according to the HSE.

Last year, 35 workers were killed and there were more than 31,000 serious injuries in the industry.