Hipperholme firm Deco-Pak Limited guilty of corporate manslaughter over death of worker crushed by robotic arm

A Hipperholme firm has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter over the death of a maintenance engineer who was crushed by a robotic arm less than six weeks after he started working at the garden landscaping supplies firm.

By Court Reporter
Friday, 14th January 2022, 8:30 pm
Updated Friday, 14th January 2022, 8:32 pm
Deco-Pak Limited of Hipperholme has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter
Deco-Pak Limited of Hipperholme has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter

A jury heard back in November at the start of a complex and detailed trial how married father-of-two Andrew Tibbott had been one of the last employees working at the Deco-Pak Limited premises on Good Friday 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.

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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 had denied the charge of corporate manslaughter although it did plead guilty before the trial began to breaching its general duty to employees under Health and Safety regulations.

After almost 16 hours of deliberation the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on the corporate manslaughter charge today (Friday).

Managing director Michael Hall, 64, of Hullen Edge Lane, Elland, also admitted the health and safety breach before the trial got underway, but he has denied a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence and the jury will continue their deliberations about his case next Wednesday.

Another of the firm’s directors Rodney Slater, 62, of Wellbank View, Rochdale, was found not guilty today on the same manslaughter allegation as Hall and not guilty on the health and safety breach offence.

During his opening of the case to the jury at the start of November Mr Compton said two other workers at the premises had also been struck by robotic arms on the machinery.

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 continues.