Printing company fined

PUBLISHED: 11:25 01 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:45 05 July 2010

A leading printing company, which produced the bestselling Harry Potter books, was guilty of health and safety breaches that could have led to the death of an employee, a court has heard.

A leading printing company, which produced the bestselling Harry Potter books, was guilty of health and safety breaches that could have led to the death of an employee, a court has heard.

Clays of Bungay was fined £32,000 and ordered to pay more than £12,000 in costs when it appeared before Lowestoft Magistrates' Court yester-day to plead guilty to six charges.

The first offence took place in July 2005 when one of the company's electricians, Martin Hammond, fell seven metres through a skylight as he supervised repair work to an air conditioning unit on a roof at the Popson Street site.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that Clays had failed to carry out a risk assessment, put proper safety measures in place or provide the correct training to Mr Hammond, who was supervising the work of an outside contractor.

Geoffrey Knipe, prosecuting for the HSE, said a skylight made out of domed plastic was close to the air conditioning unit and Mr Hammond stepped on it and fell through.

“Mr Hammond was taken to the JPH [James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston] where it was found, somewhat unbelievably, he had not suffered any broken bones. Falls from that height can be, and frequently prove, fatal,” he said.

The court heard that while Mr Hammond did not suffer any broken bones, he suffered long-term pain and was off work for several weeks. He still works for Clays.

In August 2005, the HSE issued an improvement notice, but in February 2006 a maintenance engineer, Terry Squire, suffered a bruised head, three broken ribs and two broken fingers after he fell from a ladder.

The court heard evidence that Mr Squire may have overstretched and climbed on to the top rung of the ladder, even though there was a sign on it saying not to do this.

However, Clays pleaded guilty to two general charges of failing to assess the risks, or ensure the protection of workers, carrying out jobs at height and on ladders.

It was also convicted of incidents involving an employee working on large rows of shelving without safeguards to prevent a fall and unauthorised staff having access to keys which override safety devices on machines.

Ian Mayers, for Clays, said the company, which employs 650 people, took the breaches “very seriously” and had spent £200,000 on improvements. It had also introduced a zero-tolerance policy for staff in relation to dangerous behaviour, which led to the dismissal of six employees.

After the case, HSE inspector Jon Elven said: “The incident could easily have proved fatal and we feel the prosecution was in the interest of the public and the employees of the company.”

In a statement, Clays' managing director Kate McFarlan said the company regretted the failings highlighted in the case.

“The company is dedicated to ensuring that the highest standards of health and safety performance are established and maintained,” the statement added.

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