Workers’ understanding of safety at recycling plant where man died ‘very different’

Workers’ understanding of safety systems at a recycling plant where a person died “very varied”, a test heard. Stephen Jones, managing director of Recycle Cymru Ltd (RCL) in Kinmel Bay, is charged with the negligent murder of Norman Butler, a 60-year-old Prestatin employee, on November 30, 2017.

The company, which is on the Tir Llwyd industrial estate, recycles waste cardboard and plastic by crushing the material into bales tied to strings, but a jury heard the safety was “shockingly poor”. The court has already heard that CCTV shows Mr Butler climbing a sloping conveyor belt.

Waste cardboard went with it and into a funnel called a hopper. He disappears from view but may have fallen or slipped into the hopper, it is alleged. Mr Butler was found three hours later by colleague Paul King in a locked room near a doorway, which played 999. Today, the jury heard from a mechanical engineer from the Health and Safety Executive, who investigated the scene.

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Andrew Crouch said that no one should walk on a sloping conveyor belt that contained waste cardboard to clear blockages in the hopper. They said they could trip and fall on the side of the conveyor belt or in the hopper.

He told prosecutor Craig Hassell QC: “If you get into the hopper there is a risk of serious injury or death.” He recommended clearing the blockages of large pieces of cardboard from the gantry.

He said the isolation switch was not being turned off to cut power supply at RCL, and workers’ understanding of safety systems was “very different”. He also noted that the compaction chamber under the hopper had a hydraulic ram to crush the cardboard into bales with a force of 65 tons. There were also bladed scissors to cut off the excess cardboard.

Norman Butler, 60, of Prastatin, died in an industrial accident in 2017 at Recycle Cymru Ltd (RCL) on Tir Lillivid Industrial Estate in Kinmel Bay.
(image: family handout)

The court also heard from paramedic Stephen Dauber, who said in a statement that he had been called to the Tir Lvid Industrial Estate for reports of a patient who had “fell in a skip” and sustained “traumatic cardiac arrest”. . Mr Dauber said he reached the recycling plant at 7.31 pm in his rapid response vehicle.

He said: “A man (Mr. Raja) approached my car and said ‘he is dead’.” Mr. Dauber said he went in and asked another paramedic who went in before he (Mr. Dauber) went in to ask an employee if the power of the baling machine could be disassembled.

He saw that the two switches were closed and then climbed inside. He said the patient was lying on his back and appeared to be trapped. Rigor mortis had set in and there was a pool of blood inside the machine. He investigated and recorded that life had become extinct.

Meanwhile a consultant pathologist, Dr. Mared Owen-Kasey, described how he conducted the post-mortem of Mr. Butler’s death. He said that his left leg was completely amputated above the ankle and the muscle and bone on his right heel were partially exposed. She said he also had “blood-stained hands” and was “very pale”, which indicated massive blood loss.

She said: “Mr Butler died of massive blood loss due to amputation of the left lower leg.”

Defendant Stephen Jones, 60, of Llannerch Road West, Rhos-on-Sea, Conwy, denies felony murder. His company, Recycle Cymru Ltd, of Kinmel Bay, denies violating health and safety regulations. Trial continues.

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