Hipperholme company fined and managing director jailed for Corporate Manslaughter after employee Lost their life as a result of inadequate safety measures.

On Friday, 14 April 2017, a tragic incident unfolded at Deco-Pak Limited in Hipperholme, Brighouse, resulting in the loss of a valuable life. Andrew Tibbot, a 48-year-old maintenance engineer, was found deceased at his workplace, sparking an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

Andrew had been employed by Deco-Pak for just under six weeks when the incident occurred. On that fateful day, he was operating a powerful machine equipped with a robotic arm used for the movement of materials such as gravel and stone into bags on pallets. Tragically, Andrew failed to return home after work, causing concern for his family. Desperate to locate him, they journeyed to the Deco-Pak site, where their worst fears were confirmed. The ambulance service was immediately contacted, but Andrew had succumbed to his injuries. He had been trapped in the machine, enduring catastrophic crush injuries.

Initial investigations revealed that when the machinery was initially installed, it had several safety features in place, including safety fencing and a system designed to deactivate the machine upon entry into the designated production area. However, these safety precautions were later compromised. The safety fencing was removed to allow unrestricted access to the machine during cleaning and maintenance while it was still in operation. Although a gate was installed around the machine, it lacked an adequate interlock mechanism, and the light barriers intended to detect movement in the restricted area were found to be non-functional.

Alarmingly, the company that supplied Deco-Pak with the machinery had repeatedly cautioned the management about the potential dangers associated with these machines. Furthermore, the company director had received a report two months prior to Andrew’s death, explicitly highlighting the grave safety concerns surrounding the machinery.

In the wake of a comprehensive investigation by West Yorkshire Police, with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a trial was held at Leeds Crown Court in January 2022. Deco-Pak Limited was found guilty of Corporate Manslaughter and failing to fulfil the employer’s general duty as mandated under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, in contravention of Section 33 (1) (a) of the act.

However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict regarding the managing director, Michael Hall, necessitating a re-trial in March 2023. During the re-trial, Michael Hall, 66, of Hullen Edge Lane, Elland, the director of the company at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to the health and safety offence of failing to fulfil the employer’s general duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, in contravention of Section 33 (1) (a) and Section 37 (1) of the act. Additionally, he was charged and subsequently found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The sentencing for these grave offences took place today, Friday, 9 June 2023. Michael Hall received a custodial sentence of five years, while Deco-Pak Limited was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £90,000 in court costs.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nicola Bryar, the Senior Investigating Officer, expressed her condolences to Andrew’s family and commended them for their resilience throughout the extensive investigation. She hoped that the sentences imposed would provide some solace, knowing that those responsible for Andrew’s tragic death had been held accountable for their gross negligence and failures. She emphasised that the lack of adequate safety measures exhibited a complete disregard for the well-being of the employees and the flagrant violation of health and safety regulations. She stressed the obligation of all firms and businesses to prioritise safety, ensuring that their sites and workplaces are equipped with the necessary safety measures to protect their employees.

Jacqueline Ferguson, an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), highlighted the preventable nature of Andrew Tibbot’s death, emphasising the systemic failure within Deco-Pak to prioritise employee health and safety. She lamented the absence of proactive management and the failure to address incidents, injuries, and hazardous conditions that posed a serious risk to the well-being of employees and others.

As this case reaches its conclusion, it serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of adhering to health and safety regulations and the potentially devastating consequences of neglecting these responsibilities. The memory of Andrew Tibbot will forever remain a tragic reminder of the paramount significance of safeguarding the lives of workers in all industries.