Cement firm fined £1 million after worker crushed to death at West Lothian plant

A building materials company has been fined £1 million after a worker was crushed to death by a piece of machinery at its West Lothian plant.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 4:36 pm
The piece of machinery concerned. Pic: HSE.

James Brownlie, known as Jimmy, died after being struck by a piece of machinery while carrying out maintenance on a conveyor belt at the Cemex UK West Calder block plant.

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A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report said that the 64-year-old was struck on the body by a 'centering machine lifting mast.'

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An annotated image of the conveyor belt and centering machine.

This machine, which is used to centre the bricks, should have been isolated at the time but was triggered by Mr Brownlie's body - and the hydraulic mast came down and struck him.

On Monday at Livingston Sheriff Court, Cemex UK pleaded guilty to breaching two sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £1 million. This was reduced from £1.5 million to £1 million to reflect the early guilty pleas.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kim Ross said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a man, which could have easily been prevented if had taken action to ensure the centering machine was isolated prior to the maintenance and repair work being carried out.

“If this had been in place before the incident, James Brownlie’s death could have been prevented."

'Tragic Circumstances'

The HSE investigation found that the company failed to ensure the centering machine was isolated prior to the work being carried out on the conveyor belt on May 13th, 2017.

The report said that, when part of Mr Brownlie body interrupted the path of the light beam between the sensor's emitter and reflector, it caused the machine's lifting mast to activate and descend and strike him on the body. He died from internal injuries a short time later.

The machine has two arms on a mast which come down and centre the bricks, pushing them together under hydraulic pressure to make them ready for packaging and distribution.

Mr Brownlie was employed by Cemex UK Ltd at the Westwood Works in West Calder as a maintenance fitter for about six years. He was on his second term with the firm, having previously worked as a maintenance foreman at another site.

Cemex UK supplies concrete blocks and block paving for small, medium and larger construction projects and builds from its site at Westwood Works.

A Cemex spokesman said: "Mr James Brownlie (known as Jimmy), who was employed as a fitter at West Calder Block Plant, suffered fatal injuries whilst working on production equipment in May 2017.

"We are very sorry for what happened to Jimmy. The tragic circumstances that led to Jimmy’s death have had a devastating effect on his family, friends and all his colleagues at the West Calder Block Plant and CEMEX UK.

"The health and safety of those in our workplaces is our first priority and our target is to achieve zero injuries across our entire business. We deeply regret, therefore, that this incident occurred.

"Steps were taken immediately afterwards to review the extensive measures that were in place to ensure that there can be no repeat of what happened to Jimmy."

The Crown Office is currently considering whether to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry.