Gallaher Ltd have been fined £150,000 plus costs at Antrim Crown Court, after previously pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Order (Northern Ireland) SI 1978/1039 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2000/388.

Trevor Allen, a maintenance engineer at the Lisnafillan factory in Ballymena, was carrying out repair work on a robotic palletiser along with a work colleague. An engineering manager was also present when the accident happened. During the work, an unsupported robot arm, which weighed approximately a quarter of a tonne, went into freefall. The arm fell on top of Mr Allen trapping his head and shoulders on top of a scaffold bar. He died four days later from his injuries.

A Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) investigation revealed that neither of the maintenance engineers had been trained to carry out the work they were asked to do. In addition, the company had not carried out a risk assessment for the work. There were no maintenance manuals available which provided instruction on how the job should have been done. It emerged during the investigation that other people in the factory had been trained and did know how to do the job but an attempt to contact one of these people was made too late to save Mr Allen.

Louis Burns, Head of the HSE NI's major investigation team said, “This tragic incident was completely and easily avoidable. It is hard to overstate the potential for death or serious injury arising from poorly planned repair and maintenance work. Careful planning and extreme care must be taken at all times to ensure that the correct people and equipment and systems of work are provided and used during repair and maintenance work. It wasn't on this occasion and a life was needlessly lost as a result.”