Refrigeration worker crushed to death by racking

A Bradford firm specialising in commercial refrigeration has been fined £140,000 after admitting safety failures that led to the death of a 61-year-old worker who was crushed beneath an unsecured racking system.

Jim Murphy, who worked for George Barker & Co, died from head injuries when the ‘A’ frame metal racking unit, weighing more than a quarter of a tonne, toppled over and pinned him underneath.

As he fell his head hit part of another machine just feet away. The overloaded unit had not been bolted or secured in place.

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Mr Murphy had worked at the refrigeration company, which specialises in custom refrigeration cabinets and coldrooms, for nine years.

Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday that Mr Murphy had been asked to help dismantle the stacking system so that the area in the premises could be reorganised when the accident occurred in December 2009.

The court heard the racking was not bolted to the floor and other employees had started to use it to shelve components, making it increasingly unstable.

An investigation revealed there was no system at the company to safely move or inspect the racking, no indication of its maximum load and no training given to employees.

George Barker & Co was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company had admitted the offence at an earlier hearing.

After the hearing, Morag Irwin, who investigated the case said the incident happened due to a “catalogue of errors” on the part of the company.

“There was no system to manage the racking, no identification of the racks and no inspection regime; no one had properly looked at the risks of the racking system or how to move it and re-install it safely. People joined in and helped out as and when,” commented Irwin.

“But most importantly there was nothing to identify that the racking was not in use – no warning notice or barrier tape. At some point, workers started to fill it. The more it began to fill, the more dangerous it became.”

Irwin said that George Barker & Co Ltd now has a system in place to prevent any further incidents and added that the firm had been “very responsive” throughout the investigation process.

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