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Chipboard firm fined £2.1m over worker death

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

A Scottish chipboard manufacturer has been fined £2.1m after health and safety failings led to the death of an employee.

Norbord Europe, now part of Canadian firm West Fraser, was found guilty of two breaches of health and safety law at Perth Sheriff Court at the beginning of November.

The case was brought by the Health and Safety Executive after a man died after being engulfed in hot water, steam and ash.

Debbie Carroll, assistant procurator fiscal and head of the health and safety investigation unit, said: “The prosecution and the sentence serve to highlight that a failure to fulfil health and safety obligations can have tragic consequences and those responsible will be held to account for their failings.”

In July 2016, the victim, George Laird, aged 64, had been working with three colleagues, carrying out maintenance on a wood drier. The work involved removing hot ash from a hot gas duct above a combustion chamber, using a high pressure hose. While in the area below the combustion chamber, Laird was enveloped by hot water, steam and ash, suffering burns over 90 per cent of his body. He died the next day.

Evidence presented to the court showed that Norbord had failed to provide a safe system of work for employees removing hot ash from the system.

Employees were left to devise their own methods of working.

After the chamber was installed in 2014, there were a number of near misses involving other workers.

A statement from the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service said that Norbord had failed to make a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which their employees were exposed” and to comply with statutory provisions.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Garry Miller said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to set up safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers to carry out the safe methods of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the death of Mr Laird could have been prevented.”

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