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£10,000 fine for Fertiliser Solutions Limited

24/08/11: A fertiliser firm working out of the north-east have had to pay legal damages after an employee was seriously hurt by a 600kg falling bag of ammonium nitrate.

The incident occurred at Fertiliser Solutions Ltd, based in a warehouse on Dawson’s wharf, Middlesbrough, when bags of ammonium nitrate fell onto Robert Dearlove from an unsecure stack, which was three stacks high, while him an another worker were cleaning up a spillage. The incident occurred on the 29 April 2008.

During the prosecution held at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, it was heard that one employee was sweeping up the spillage, while Mr Dearlove was hooking the remainder of the fallen bags on to a forklift truck. The men had noticed that on top of the stack of ammonium nitrate, two bags were leaning, and that when Dearlove’s back was turned after hooking the bags onto the forklift, one of the bags fell on top of him.

The bad had fallen from the third layer, striking him on his back, causing him a serious back injury, damage in the ligament of his left leg, and a fractured right thigh. The injuries he sustained required him to be in hospital for three weeks after the incident, and in the five months after that he was required to wear a back brace and further back surgery. Chronic pain and restricted movement has prevented the plaintiff from returning to work since the incident took place.

After the court hearing, Catherine Rimmer, A Health and Safety Executive (HSE), declared that the easily preventable incident has caused a great deal of pain and suffering. She acknowledged that any safety procedures implemented were not specific enough to prevent this type of accident occurring. This was made worse by the fact that the company knew the risks of stacked bags. The simple procedure of removing the leaning bags from the top of the stack before employees were allowed to clean the area below would have prevented the injuries sustained by Mr Dearlove. She finished by urging similar companies to make sure safety procedures are properly implemented.

Upon pleading guilty to two offences – one violation of Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 and one of Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 – Fertiliser Solutions Ltd, Dawson’s Wharf, Middlesbrough paid £10,500 in damages to the plaintiff and £12,411.45 for legal fees.