A sheriff has blasted a company’s “Heath Robinson-esque” health and safety practices after a worker was left with horrific injuries caused by a runaway four-tonne roll of paper.
Tullis Russell Papermakers Ltd were today fined £50,000 over the incident, which left Steven Thompson needing major surgery to repair the pelvic injuries he suffered.
But it is likely only a fraction of that cash will ever be handed over because the firm, based at Markinch in Fife, is in administration and already owes millions of pounds to creditors and staff.
Mr Thompson was left with a shattered pelvis after a four-tonne roll of paper was allowed to drop to the ground and roll away as other workers tried to separate it into two smaller rolls.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard the method being used by workers to separate the paper that day was to lift the large roll up on a fork lift before releasing it from a clamp, allowing it to fall to the floor in the hope that would help break it in two.
That sometimes led to the rolls careering into stacked rolls of paper or pillars at the factory.
In one instance the roll got away and rolled in to Mr Thompson, who had no chance to escape from its path and was trapped against a wall.
Sheriff James Williamson said: “These practices are Heath Robinson-esque.”
Fiscal depute Brian Duffy told the court the roll of paper weighed 3.93 metric tonnes.
He said the roll workers were trying to separate had “interwoven” and was stuck.
It then rolled towards Mr Thompson and he was crushed against a wall.
The paper then rolled back and released him from the wall, prompting him to fall to the floor.
The court was told Mr Thompson had suffered a double pelvic fracture which required emergency surgery – an “open reduction internal fixation” – to repair, including the use of two plates and eight screws.
Tullis Russell Papermakers Ltd pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Defence solicitor Clare Bone said the firm was in administration with million owed to secured creditors and employees in redundancy payouts.
She added: “Clearly depending on the level of the fines that will impact the money available to pay a dividend to those staff from the administrator.”
Sheriff James Williamson imposed a fine of £50,000 – reduced from £75,000 for the company’s early guilty plea.
He said: “These rolls of paper were allowed to either drop to the ground or roll along it – and they could roll in multiple directions.
“Consequently crushing is exactly what happened to Mr Thompson. It is clear this was not a low-risk situation – it was a high-risk practice.
“Any fine I impose will potentially diminish the dividend that will be paid to workers from the administrators and I have to bear that in mind.”