Manager killed by waste paper bales was tasked with improving safety

By Harriet Ernstsons 20/04 Updated: 20/04 10:36

A MAN crushed to death by three tonnes of waste was due to give a health and safety talk later that day, a jury heard.

Kenneth Swaby died on February 11 last year after large bales of paper for recycling stacked unstably fell on him just weeks after he was taken on to improve safety at R and S Recycling Centre in Beoley.

Following an inquest on Monday and Tuesday (April 16 and 17) a jury returned a narrative verdict stating the 43-year-old from Canvey Island in Essex died as the result of an accident caused by a falling stack of bales which were inappropriately stacked due to a lack of training and inadequate safety measures at the Beoley Lane business.

General manager Paul Tunnicliffe told Worcestershire Coroners Court the largest bales, which weighed a tonne each, should only be stacked four-high with fewer on the top row to 'bind' them together. But pictures taken shortly after the incident, which happened between 8.15am and 8.30am, appear to show five had been stacked on top of each other with no binding top row.

Mr Tunnicliffe said everyone involved in stacking the bales was a qualified forklift driver who had been taught how to stack them. He added all drivers also read and signed a risk assessment form compiled by him during their induction, although information about binding the stacks together was not added to the official document until the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began their investigation following Mr Swaby's death.

Michael Oxenbury, a former labourer at the site, told the jury and coroner Geraint Williams the rules were not always enforced, with bales sometimes being stacked higher than allowed.

Both Mr Oxenbury and former co-worker Henryk Szymanski said Mr Swaby had told them to stack the boxes in fives to make more space in the shed, despite them raising safety concerns. The London-born recycling worker had been taken on less than four weeks before as works manager to improve health and safety at the site, having gained qualifications during his previous employment in the south of the country.

He had commuted up to Redditch most days, leaving home at 4am to get to work on time. A post-mortem concluded he had died from multiple head injuries and had also suffered other multiples injuries after the bales fell while he was walking past.

Expert witness Dominic Swan from the HSE agreed the stacks appeared to have been unstable and too high, saying when he visited a month later 'a lot of lessons had been learned'. The HSE investigation into the death is currently ongoing.

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