ONE of Limerick’s biggest employers was fined €4,000 after it pleaded guilty to criminal charges relating to a workplace accident during which a worker sustained serious injuries.
STL Logistics admitted a number of breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act relating to the accident, which happened at its facility in Annacotty on November 5, 2012.
Limerick Court was told that agency worker John Troy (52) was injured when his hand got caught in a decanning machine which he was operating at the time.
John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, said Mr Troy was attempting to remove a can which had got stuck in the machine when the “cutting head” came down on his left hand.
“He suffered cuts to his ring and middle finger, the tips were nearly detached,” he said.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly was told the worker was treated at the then Mid Western Regional Hospital and has made a good recovery since.
However, he still suffers some restricted movement in his hand.
John Kennedy, an inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said Mr Troy had been working for the company for less than two months before the accident and had only received a “small degree” of training.
He told the court Mr Troy had not received any Health and Safety training.
The court was told that a safety guard had been removed from the decanning machine some time prior to the accident but that it could not be established when it had been removed.
“I failed to determine when and who removed it,” said Mr Kennedy, who told the court that there have been considerable safety improvements at the facility since in the incident.
External consultants were hired and solicitor Rob Cussen said the company now employs a full-time Health and Safety Officer.
The court was told the company has spent around €6,000 improving safety and that the decanning machine has been modified to ensure employees cannot get near the cutting head.
In mitigation, Mr Cussen said STL Logistics, which employs around 300 people, has an excellent safety record, cooperated with the HSA investigation and has carried out significant works to enhance safety since the accident.
Imposing sentence, Judge Eugene O’Kelly commented that the company had shown a careless attitude towards health and safety prior to the accident. “For a small amount of money, this accident would have been prevented,” he said.
Judge O’Kelly noted Mr Kennedy’s evidence that the missing safety guard would have been spotted by “any competent supervisor” saying this represented the “height of carelessness” on the company’s part.
He also criticised the fact that no director or senior manager had “seen fit” to attend the court proceedings.
The judge added that it was an aggravating factor that an agency worker had been allowed to operate the decanning machine without any proper training.
Noting that the company is in a good financial position, he imposed a €4,000 fine and he ordered STL Logistics to pay the €264.12 in expenses incurred by the HSA during the investigation.