Hipperholme firm Deco-Pak Limited and two directors go on trial after worker crushed to death by robotic arm

A maintenance engineer was crushed to death by a robotic arm less than six weeks after he started working for a garden landscaping supplies firm based in Hipperholme.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 3:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 10:09 am
Hipperholme firm Deco-Pak Limited

A jury heard today (Wed) that Andrew Tibbott had been one of the last employees working at the Deco-Pak Limited premises on April 14, 2017 when he was fatally injured by the machine.

Bradford Crown Court heard that the injured 48-year-old was only discovered when concerned family members went to the site on Halifax Road later that evening after he failed to return home.

Prosecutor Allan Compton QC said Mr Tibbott was found by his son, but despite paramedics arriving on scene he died from crush injuries to his chest.

Mr Tibbott had entered the “cell” around the robotic arm to clean a sensor, but Mr Compton alleged that “within days” of the installation in April 2015 of the fully automated line for bagging up products such as stone, slate the company and senior management had caused essential safety features to be bypassed or disabled.

Mr Compton alleged that repeated warnings about the dangers had been ignored and Mr Tibbott’s death had been “wholly avoidable” and was the result of systematic failure.

The court heard that the robotic arm could move at seven metres per second and Mr Compton described it as a powerful and dangerous piece of machinery.

Deco-Pak Limited has denied a charge of corporate manslaughter although it has already pleading guilty to breaching its general duty to employees under Health and Safety regulations.

Managing director Michael Hall, 64, of Hullen Edge Lane, Elland, has also admitted the health and safety breach, but denies a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Another director Rodney Slater, 62, of Wellbank View, Rochdale, has denied the same manslaughter allegation and the health and safety breach offence.

During his detailed opening of the case Mr Compton said two other workers at the premises had also been struck by robotic arms on the machinery and one of them had left the firm describing the working conditions as “lethal”.

He alleged that after the installation of the automated machinery which fatally injured Mr Tibbott Deco-Pak failed to carry out a risk assessment for its use or to assess how the risk would increase as safety measures were bypassed or disabled.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.