The prosecution followed an incident in October 2008 when an engineer, Ian Ebbs, was fatally crushed whilst trying to rectify a fault in a printing press. Mr Ebbs had entered the enclosure around the press to saw over two airlines which controlled a locking pin. In doing so he freed the paddle wheel which allowed the machine to operate. The HSE found that prior to Mr Ebbs’ incident, the same press machine had been involved in two similar incidents in a six month period. However, on both occasions, the engineers had been able to avoid injury. In the first incident, the engineer had managed to hold the moving parts off before he was helped to climb out, and in the second incident the engineer, who had a large build, avoided injury as he had only leant into the enclosure rather than having to climb into it. The HSE’s investigation found that these earlier near misses were not properly investigated so lessons were not learnt and the company also had insufficient systems in place to identify risks to their employees.
The Defendant company, Wyndenham Peterborough, pleaded guilty to breach of Section 2(1) HSWA although not at the first opportunity. The Judge therefore acknowledged the guilty plea with a reduction of ¼ rather than ⅓ to reflect this delay. The Judge also found that the breach was a significant cause of Mr Ebbs’ death and applied the Sentencing Guidelines. In addition to the fine which was imposed, the company was also ordered to pay the Prosecution costs of £80,000. The penalties were set notwithstanding a reported loss of £3.04m against a turnover of £22.4m to July 2010.