An international cleaning company has been ordered to pay £217,000 in fines and costs following the death of a porter at a hospital in Bolton.Manchester Crown Court heard that ISS Mediclean Ltd provides porters and cleaning services for more than 80 NHS Trusts across the UK, including the Royal Bolton Hospital.
On 8 October 2006, Peter Bonomy, who was a porter at the hospital, was collecting cardboard to place inside a cardboard compactor. He was found dead by one of his colleagues with his head and neck underneath the lid of an industrial waste compactor, which was used to crush general waste. There were no witnesses to the incident, but it’s thought that the 58-year-old had found some general waste, while he was collecting the cardboard, and placed it inside the compactor. When he leant over the side of the compactor it’s likely that he knocked an L-shaped lever that operates the lid, causing it to come down on him, breaking his neck.
The HSE visited the site the following day and discovered that a cam switch on the compactor had been tampered with, which allowed the ram on the machine to operate when the lid was open.
Inspectors issued a Prohibition Notice, which ordered the hospital to fix the switch before the unit could be used again. They issued a second Prohibition Notice requiring it to place an open box around the L-shaped lever so that workers could not knock it. The investigation identified that the manufacturer’s recommendations for the compactor stated that it should be loaded from the front, away from the controls, but it had become standard practice for porters to load it from the side.The compactor, which was owned by the hospital, had been moved to a new position at the hospital a few months prior to the incident and ISS Mediclean had failed to carry out a risk assessment to ensure it was safely operated in its new location.
HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller told SHP there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the hospital. “Peter Bonomy’s employer, ISS Mediclean, should have done more to make sure he and his colleagues were using the waste compactors safely”, said inspector Leese-Weller. “The lids snapped down instantly when the levers were operated so he had no chance of getting out of the way. The industrial waste compactors clearly had the potential to put lives in danger so the company should have carried out a proper risk assessment to make sure its employees stayed safe.”
ISS Mediclean appeared in court on 30 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £42,000 in costs. In mitigation, the company entered an early guilty plea and admitted it failed to implement a safe system of work. The hospital has subsequently purchased a new compactor and ISS Mediclean has trained its staff how to use the machine safely.