Recycling Company Fined After Worker Killed by Loading Shovel

A recycling firm has been fined £2.15 million following the death of an agency worker who was struck by a loading shovel at its site in Hartlepool.

Dean Atkinson tragically lost his life in January 2020 when he was hit and run over by a vehicle at the premises of Ward Recycling Limited on Windermere Road, Longhill Industrial Estate.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Stephen Garner stated that Mr. Atkinson’s death could have been avoided had Ward Recycling implemented an alternative traffic route for pedestrians on Windermere Road, following the guidance outlined in HSE recommendations on workplace transport, which includes measures like adequate separation between pedestrians and vehicles.

At the time of the incident, Mr. Atkinson, aged 32, was returning from the site’s welfare cabins to his workstation on the picking line. To reach his destination, he had to traverse a traffic area where mobile plant operations, including two loading shovels, were active.

Tragically, one of the loading shovels struck and fatally injured Mr. Atkinson while he was in the traffic area.

The incident prompted investigations from both the HSE and Cleveland Police. Subsequently, Ward Recycling faced prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and breaching health and safety regulations in a trial at Middlesbrough Crown Court last month.

The HSE’s investigation revealed that Ward Recycling, which entered liquidation in 2021, failed to protect pedestrians from the mobile plant operations at the site. In the absence of suitable traffic management arrangements, pedestrians, including Mr. Atkinson, were at risk of being struck by moving vehicles, particularly loading shovels. These machines pose heightened risks when there is insufficient segregation, partly due to limitations in the operator’s visibility – an HSE visibility assessment found that an area over 10 metres in front of the vehicle could be obscured from the driver’s view.

Ward Recycling Limited, formerly located at St Peter’s Square, Oxford Street, Manchester, was found guilty of breaching Section 1 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, as well as Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £1.75 million for corporate manslaughter and an additional £400,000 for breaching health and safety regulations. The sentencing occurred at Middlesbrough Crown Court on 26 January 2024.

HSE inspector Stephen Garner commented: “This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if Ward Recycling had implemented simple control measures. Following the incident, it took the company less than a week to establish an alternative traffic route to protect pedestrians. Had this been in place prior to the incident, Dean Atkinson would not have lost his life. Unfortunately, incidents of pedestrians being struck by vehicles on waste sites have led to numerous fatal accidents, and the industry should be well aware of the associated risks.”