Vauxhall owner sentenced over Ellesmere Port death

On 14th August 2013 at Liverpool Crown Court, General Motors UK Ltd was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £19,654 in prosecution costs following the death of an employee at the Vauxhall Car Factory in Ellesmere Port. The Court heard that on 22nd July 2010 the employee had been working in the paint unit at the Vauxhall car factory in Ellesmere Port when he was crushed by a machine used to carry cars through a conveyer system to be spray painted. He has been trying to free some of the skids that had become stuck, and as he moved them the machine restarted and he was crushed.
 
A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that a door at the back of the paint unit allowed access to the machine without the power being cut. This had been created after the machine was installed in the 1990s and it had become standard practice for workers to use the door to free skids when they became stuck. The Court heard that a risk assessment carried out in 2000 identified the potential dangers posed by the new door but no action was taken.
 
General Motors pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to ensure the safety of employees, and failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
 
Following the hearing the HSE have advised that “there was absolutely no point in Vauxhall carrying out a risk assessment into the dangers posed by the machine if it wasn’t going to act on the recommendations”. This accident clearly illustrates the importance of not only conducting a risk assessment but also identifying the potential dangers, and implementing precautions to ensure a safe working environment.