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Global defence company BAE Systems has been ordered to pay almost £350,000 in fines and charges after a worker died when he was crushed by the 145-tonnes weight of the metal press at its East Yorkshire plant.

Hull Crown Court was told that a comprehensive study by HSE had exposed a series of flaws in complete safety practices during maintenance of the metal press, most of which had existed for many years.

Mr Whiting died in 2008 while working as a part of a four man team doing routine servicing of a large metal press, a machine the length of a two-bed house. Two men were working at one end of the machine and 2 the other end. A legal court was told neither pair could properly see the other.

Mr Whiting entered the machine to remove a piece of equipment he’d used but at the same time, one of his colleagues in the far end started the entire test cycle of the press frame. The Forty five square-metre frame descended, trapping Mr Whiting. He past away within 24 hours in hospital from his injuries.

The court heard the type of press used, one of only a handful in the country and accustomed to make Hawk jet trainer components, was serviced around four times a year and all sorts of maintenance team were experienced workers.

Safety failings uncovered by HSE’s investigation included an absence of a suitable assessment of the risks associated with the test process and a lack of engineering control measures to avoid entry by workers to dangerous parts of the device during testing in order to stop the machine if anyone did enter a danger zone.

BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd of Farnborough Aerospace Centre, Farnborough, Hampshire, was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay for £97,153 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act l974. The company had entered a guilty plea in a hearing in April this past year.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Mark Welsh said:

“This was an entirely preventable tragedy that devastated Mr Whiting’s wife, Jackie, his two children and the wider family. They have shown remarkable resilience during what’s 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 it is serious failings caused this tragedy.

“Although the press machine have been serviced regularly, it had been completed in the same unacceptable way and it is surprising there had not been an early on incident.

“The guarding was inadequate there weren’t any key safety systems, no light guards or interlocks on the doors of the machine; nothing that will have either prevented admission to dangerous parts or stopped the device if entry is made. In addition, there were no instructions, either written or verbal, provided by BAE to employees concerning how to perform testing process safely.

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