On 27 April 2012, Zydre Groblyte, 23, suffered a fatal head injury at RGE Engineering in Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, when a machine started while she was inside it. An investigation by the HSE found that there was no effective system of guarding on the machine and that the accident could have been prevented.
Miss Groblyte, from Lithuania, had worked at the factory for approximately eight months. She had been making panels for washing machines, when it is believed that she bypassed a safety gate at which point a colleague was believed to have started the machine accidentally, with Miss Groblyte still inside.
The jury concluded that management should have known staff were accessing machines for maintenance other than through safety gates. They also found that a failure to provide a safety guard which deactivated the machine while someone was inside was a contributory factor in the death. There were also issues regarding communication with concerns being raised about the adequacy of training and supervision of staff with poor English.
Gordon Leach, who was a sole trader of RGE Engineering, admitted a breach of reg. 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This required employers to take measures preventing access to any dangerous part of machinery, or to stop the movement of any dangerous part before any person enters the machine.
Mr Leach was given a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, fined £7,500 and ordered to pay the costs of £45,000. The prosecution was unusual as the HSE charged Mr Leach personally rather than the company, due to him being a sole trader.
Judge Sean Enright at Peterborough Crown Court found that Mr Leach’s culpability was at the high end of medium. The likelihood of harm was medium and the overall harm category was raised to level 1. There was some mitigation with the judge being satisfied that Mr Leach had been let down by others.
The company was said to have an annual turnover of £30M. Had the sentencing guidelines been applied as above, the company, if prosecuted, would have been treated as a medium organisation, resulting in a starting point fine of £540,000 with a range of £300,000 to £1,300,000.