Gary Whiting, 51, was killed at the BAE plant at Brough, East Yorkshire, used to make Hawk fighter jets

Defence giant fined �350 000 over worker death

Defence giant BAE Systems must pay almost £350,000 after a worker was crushed by a 145-tonne metal press at one of its sites.

Defence giant BAE Systems must pay almost £350,000 after a worker was crushed by a 145-tonne metal press at one of its sites.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the death of experienced maintenance engineer Gary Whiting, 51, at the BAE plant at Brough, East Yorkshire, was an "entirely preventable tragedy".

Whiting, from Hull, died on 10 November 2008 when he was part of a team performing a routine service on a large metal press the size of a two-bedroom house and used to make components for Hawk jets.

Hull Crown Court heard how Whiting entered the machine to remove a piece of equipment but, at the same time, a colleague at the other end of the press started a full test cycle. He was trapped by the 45 square metre frame as it descended and he died the same day in hospital.

The HSE said its investigation exposed a series of flaws in safety practices during maintenance of the metal press, some of which had existed for many years.

Failings 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 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 l974. The company had entered a guilty plea at a hearing last year.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Mark Welsh said: "This was an entirely preventable tragedy that devastated Mr Whiting's wife, Jackie, his two children and his wider family.

"They have shown admirable resilience during what has been a protracted and, at times, painful process. The dangers of maintenance work on these types of machines are well-known yet BAE Systems Ltd failed to identify those risks and its serious failings led to this tragedy.

"Although the press machine had been serviced regularly, it was done in the same unacceptable way and it is surprising there had not been an earlier incident.

"The guarding was inadequate and there were no key safety systems, no light guards or interlocks on the doors of the machine; nothing that would have either prevented entry to dangerous parts or stopped the machine if entry was made.

"In addition, there were no instructions, either written or verbal, given by BAE to workers about how to carry out the testing process safely.

"This incident should serve as a reminder to companies to ensure that dangerous parts of their machines are identified and measures taken to properly protect their workers. No company should put its employees at unnecessary risk."

A statement released on behalf of Whiting's widow, Jackie, two children and brother, said: "We are pleased that, more than four-and-a-half years after Gary was killed, BAE Systems have been brought to justice.

"The complete absence of any safe system of work for the job Gary was performing beggars belief. There wasn't a suitable risk assessment for the job he was doing.

"The machine he had been working in had been operated with a person inside it before and it is pure luck no-one was killed in the machine before Gary.

"If BAE Systems had spent even a relatively small amount on safety features for the machine he was working in, Gary would have been alive today."

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