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Vauxhall owner sentenced over Ellesmere Port death

The owner of Vauxhall has been fined £150,000 over the death of a long-serving worker who was crushed in machinery at its car factory in Ellesmere Port.

General Motors UK Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after Ian Heard was found badly injured at the North Road plant. He was taken to hospital but died 11 days later.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Mr Heard had been working in the paint unit at the factory where trolleys - known as skids - carry cars through a conveyer system to be spray painted.

He had entered the part of the unit where the skids are stacked in order to try and free some after they became stuck. As he moved them the machine restarted and he was crushed.

The HSE investigation found a doorway had been created through a wall at the back of the paint unit, sometime after the machine had been installed in the 1990s, which allowed access without the power being cut.

The court was told it had previously not been possible to get to the conveyor system while it was still operating as light sensors at the front of the machine meant it stopped if a worker walked over them. There was also an access gate in the fence around the machine, which could only be opened once the power had been switched off.

A risk assessment carried out in 2000 - ten years before Mr Heard's death - identified the potential danger posed by the new door but no further action was taken by the company. It had also become standard practice for workers to use the door to free skids when they became stuck.

General Motors pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to ensure the safety of employees, and failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. It was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £19,654 in prosecution costs.

The latest figures show 20 people were killed while working in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain in 2012/13.

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