A global defence company has been fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £97,153 after one of its workers was crushed to death by a 145 tonne metal press. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) described the death of maintenance engineer Gary Whiting, 51, as an “entirely preventable tragedy” caused by the serious safety failings of BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd at its plant in Saltgrounds Road, Brough.

Mr Whiting died in November 2008 while working as part of a four-man team doing routine servicing of a large metal press. Two men were working at one end of the machine and two at the opposite end. The court was told neither pair could properly see the other.

Mr Whiting entered the machine to remove a piece of equipment he’d been using but at the same time, one of his colleagues at the far end started the full test cycle of the press frame. The 45-square-metre frame descended, trapping Mr Whiting. He died the same day in hospital from his crush injuries.

Safety failings uncovered by the HSE’s investigation included an absence of a suitable assessment of the risks associated with the test process and a lack of engineering control measures to prevent entry by workers to dangerous parts of the machine during testing or to stop the machine if anyone did enter a danger zone.

BAE Systems pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at a hearing in April last year.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Mark Welsh said, “The dangers of maintenance work on these types of machines are well-known yet BAE Systems Ltd failed to identify those risks and its serious failings led to this tragedy. Although the press machine had been serviced regularly, it was done in the same unacceptable way and it is surprising there had not been an earlier incident.

The guarding was inadequate and there were no key safety systems, no light guards or interlocks on the doors of the machine; nothing that would have either prevented entry to dangerous parts or stopped the machine if entry was made. In addition, there were no instructions, either written or verbal, given by BAE to workers about how to carry out the testing process safely.

This incident should serve as a reminder to companies to ensure that dangerous parts of their machines are identified and measures taken to properly protect their workers. No company should put its employees at unnecessary risk.”

For more information, see:

  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations SI 1998/2306;
  • INDG375 -Power presses: A summary of guidance on maintenance and thorough examination;
  • L112 – Safe use of power presses.