A former director of a recycling business has been been given a suspended jail sentence after his employee’s arm was “severed” in a machine at work.
Robert James Shepherd, 62, of Ellesmere Port, pleaded guilty at Wrexham Magistrates Court to contravening a health and safety regulation as the director of Clark Technologies Wales.
The court was told production operatative Keith John Lockett was cleaning a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) washing plant on December 6, 2016, at Deva Industrial Park on Factory Road, Deeside, when his arm was cut off below the elbow.
The court heard that as an employer Shepherd, whose company had since gone into liquidation, failed to discharge his duty to staff in relation to health and safety regulations.
The PET washing plant Mr Lockett – who had been employed by Shepherd since Clark Technologies was established in 2015 – was working on turned dirty bales of bottles into clean PET flakes in the process of recyling ready for reuse.
Peter Hayes, prosecuting, said there were high speed friction washers located in the machine and a number of metal pedals that operated at 500 revolutions per minute.
In a statement Mr Lockett said the company was making a few changes, meaning the PET washing plant needed to be cleaned. He was cleaning the machine as part of a “clean down which had been going on for a few days”.
He was preparing to clean the inside of the machine and turned off the power but said there was a blockage.
The court heard that when the machine was turned off, the high friction washers took a while to slow down and did not stop immediately.
Mr Hayes said Mr Lockett got close to the machine as the friction washers were still rotating despite being turned off at the switch, and his jumper became caught in “what must have been the pedals” which resulted in his right arm being severed below the elbow.
Health and safety officials visited the site and raised concerns about the risk assessment of the PET washing plant.
Mr Hayes said: “It didn’t deal with cleaning the machine or how to deal with blockages.”
Inspectors also found the floor was wet and there were power cables on the floor causing a hazard and believed they had been there for “some time”.
In a statement describing the impact the incident had on him, Mr Lockett said his right arm had been “severed” below the elbow and he was right-handed. He said the accident has cost him his relationship and he was still taking painkillers and anti-depressants as a result of the injury.
Mr Lockett confirmed he now suffered with post traumatic stress and still had “phantom pains” in his arm.
Shepherd, of Manor Park Drive, Great Sutton, said to have more than 40 years of experience in the industry, put the firm into liquidation on March 9.
Mr Lockett was made redundant as a result and said he was worried about being able to provide for his daughter.
He added: “My life is in the dark and I don’t know what capability I will have.”
Ian Simkin, defending, said Shepherd was “deeply shocked” by what had happend to Mr Lockett. He apologised for the injury Mr Lockett had suffered “in what was a terrible incident”.
The court also heard Shepherd suffered with long-term health complaints.
Shepherd was given a jail sentence of 10 weeks, suspended for a year, with costs of £4,000 and a surcharge of £150.