The HSE announced last week that they had fined General Motors UK Vauxhall Motors £150,000 following the death of an employee at their Vauxhall Motors Ellesmere Port plant.

In July 2010 Ian Heard, an electrician at the Vauxhall Motors site, was crushed by a piece of machinery – sustaining what ultimately proved to be fatal injuries. The HSE became involved due to the severity of the injury and carried out a full investigation. They found that workers who tried to re start stuck machinery could enter the area without the power being cut. A previous risk assessment had identified that machinery (trolleys on a conveyor system) became stuck at this point and often required employees to ‘free’ them but that the route of access to do so did not involve the power being cut. However no action had been taken to deal with this hazard.

The HSE fined General Motors for failing to ensure the safety of employees and not preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery whilst in operation. Steps have since been taken to ensure that workers can only access the machinery to free it once the power has been cut.

Philippa Luscombe, head of the personal injury team at Penningtons, commented: “This was a tragic case involving the avoidable death of a long standing employee of Vauxhall Motors. It is well recognised that employees in a factory environment will do what they can to resolve problems and keep things moving. Once it has been acknowledged that activities which may put workers at risk are regularly undertaken, the necessary action should be taken to manage that risk to reduce/avoid the risk of injury. Had Vauxhall Motors acted on the information available to them, and taken simple steps to manage the risk, this tragic accident would never have occurred. This case proves the importance of being alert to what actually happens on the factory floor and risk assessing all day to day practices.”