An engineering company has been fined £100,000 after a worker was crushed to death at a factory near Pontypridd.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Melloy Limited after shift co-ordinator Paul Thorngate, 44, was crushed by a falling crate of aluminium car parts, while working overtime at the company’s Treforest Industrial Estate premises.
The father-of-three from Porth was working alone in the heat treatment area of the factory on the evening of 10 November 2006, but was fatally injured when the wire rope hoist that was supporting a suspended crate of parts failed, causing it to fall upon him.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that Mr Thorngate, who had worked for the company for 27 years, was one of several men who would work overtime at weekends or nights as a lone worker.
On the night of the incident, a metal basket containing aluminum brake parts was being hoisted into a furnace for high temperature treatment. The crane raised and lowered its cargo by extending and shortening a wire rope. However, Mr Thorngate was killed when the rope supporting the weight snapped, and the basket landed on top of him.
The court heard that after the company relocated to Treforest in May 2005, the hoist mechanism was reassembled at the new premises. The HSE investigation found the firm failed to ensure the hoist was examined by a qualified specialist after reassembly, and was done without first conducting a suitable risk assessment.
Following the incident, it was discovered that the wire rope had broken, as it had been seriously damaged from rubbing against the frame. The safety devices on the hoist were also incorrectly adjusted.
Melloy Ltd of Treforest Industrial Estate in Pontypridd, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(2)(b) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £75,000.
Mr Thorngate’s partner, Jayne Beer, said:
“Words cannot describe how much of a gap Paul’s death has left in all our lives. He was a vibrant and fun-loving person and he was much-loved by friends, family and colleagues. His untimely death has devastated all that knew him, including his children and four brothers.
“He was dedicated to his job and worked hard to make sure his work was completed to the highest standard. If only his employers had had the same attitude and work ethic then perhaps in a different life Paul would still be with us today.”
HSE inspector, Janet Viney said:
“This tragic incident that has left a family without a father could have been easily prevented had the failed hoist been thoroughly examined when it was moved from one factory to another.
“If a competent person had examined the hoist, the changes which were made to accommodate its new position would have been recognised and the safety mechanisms would have been adjusted.