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BAE Systems sentenced for death of worker

Photo shows the press frame resting on the rails between which Gary Whiting was found

Global defence company BAE Systems has been ordered to pay almost £350,000 in fines and costs after a worker died when he was crushed by the 145-tonnes weight of a metal press at its East Yorkshire plant.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, described the death of maintenance engineer Gary Whiting, 51, as an “entirely preventable tragedy” caused by the serious safety failings of BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd. at its plant in Saltgrounds Road, Brough.

On 21 May, Hull Crown Court was told that a detailed investigation by HSE had exposed a series of flaws in safety practices during maintenance of the metal press, some of which had existed for many years.

Mr Whiting, formerly of Danby Close, Hull, died on 10 November 2008 while working as part of a four-man team doing routine servicing of a large metal press, a machine the size of a two-bed house. Two men were working at one end of the machine and two at the opposite end. The court was told neither pair could properly see the other.

While Mr Whiting, who had some 20 years’ experience, and his colleague were working with one of the two trays that fed into either end of the press, the other team was testing the tray bed and press frame at the other side.

Mr Whiting entered the machine to remove a piece of equipment he’d been using but at the same time, one of his colleagues at the far end started the full test cycle of the press frame. The 45-square-metre frame descended, trapping Mr Whiting. He died the same day in hospital from his crush injuries.

The court heard the type of press used, one of only a handful in the country and used to make Hawk jet trainer components, was serviced around four times a year and all the maintenance team were experienced workers.

Safety failings uncovered by HSE’s investigation included an absence of a suitable assessment of the risks associated with the test process and a lack of engineering control measures to prevent entry by workers to dangerous parts of the machine during testing or to stop the machine if anyone did enter a danger zone.

BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd. of Farnborough Aerospace Centre, Farnborough, Hampshire, was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £97,153 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company had entered a guilty plea at a hearing in April last year.


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