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Textile manufacturer sentenced over worker's death

12-02-2013

A West Yorkshire textile firm has been ordered to pay more than £115,000 in fines and costs for safety breaches that led to a worker being crushed and Some of the rag bales in WE Rawsons warehousekilled by a falling stack of rag bales.

Forklift truck operator James Welka, 61, died in hospital just hours after the incident at WE Rawson Limited's warehouse in Castle Bank Mills, Wakefield, on 22 February 2010.

Mr Welka, who had been with the firm for five years, was struck by the top two bales of rags, each weighing more than 300kg, when a column of bales collapsed.

On 11 February, WE Rawson Ltd. was sentenced for a serious breach of safety legislation at Leeds Crown Court in proceedings brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The company had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

The court was told that Mr Welka, of Walker Avenue, Wakefield, was an experienced forklift operator who worked in the firm's rag bale warehouse.

On the day of the incident, he was standing next to a five-metre high column of bales while making a phone call to a supervisor. A colleague was operating a forklift nearby in the process of moving some of the bales. The column suddenly toppled toward his colleague's truck but the top two bales fell in the opposite direction and struck Mr Welka, who had been out of sight behind the column.

He was taken to Pinderfields Hospital but was pronounced dead the same day.

HSE found that WE Rawson Ltd. had stacked the rag bales unsafely, using vertical columns, which were inherently unstable, rather than tiered stacking. It had failed to consider the risks posed by the unstable columns to employees walking around the warehouse, and failed to put effective measures in place to control the pedestrian activities around the warehouse.

WE Rawson Ltd., of Portobello Road, Wakefield, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,839 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

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