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CORUS FATAL ACCIDENT

Northern Echo, 5 February 2003

Fatal accident costs steel firm 10,000 fine
by Chris Brayshay

STEEL maker Corus has been fined 10,000 over the death of a fitter, crushed under a three- and-a-half tonne steel plate.

Bob Powlay, 54, of Coatham Road, Redcar, had carried out welding work on a roller which had sheared on a 48-year-old conveyor belt at the Portrack pipe works, Stockton.

All power had been shut down to allow father-of-two Mr Powlay to carry out his task. He used the manual overdrive to switch it back on to test the weld seam, without fully understanding the danger he was in.

Adrian Penn, an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, told Teesside Magistrates basic precautions had not been taken by Corus, "which, had they been taken, would have prevented this tragedy happening".

But he said the worst aspect of the case was that "the employees working on the machinery lacked specific knowledge'' about the workings of the apparatus and processes.

Lawyer Dominic Nolan, who was representing Corus, conceded: "It is acknowledged that Mr Powlay's knowledge was short of what it should have been.''

Gary Turner, works' engineer for Corus's Energy Business told the bench: "If he had followed procedures then this accident would not have happened.''

Chairman of the bench Gordon Pargetter said: "We found there is culpability on both sides.''

Corus pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety regulations. The fine imposed was half the maximum Corus could have been fined. But the Anglo-Dutch group was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of 1,286.

Mr Powlay died in hospital, three weeks after the incident in the steel mill on October 17, 2000.

His widow, Margaret, left the court disappointed and upset over claims that her husband was partly to blame for the tragedy.

Mrs Powlay, 59, said: "I was under the impression there was only one way to test the weld, by having a live test, and the position he was stood in was the only position he could be in, to do the test. You could not see the roller from another angle.

"All I can think of is 'what a waste of life for someone who was well loved and known by a lot of people'.


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