Food waste firm fined over cooker death

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

John Pointon & Sons Ltd admitted safety failings that led to the death
John Pointon & Sons Ltd admitted safety failings that led to the death

Related tags Occupational safety and health

A Staffordshire food waste recycling and animal rendering firm has been fined £660,000 after a worker died while repairing an industrial cooker.

John Pointon & Sons Ltd was also ordered to pay a further £187,632 in costs after pleading guilty to safety failures that led to the death of Mark Bullock.

The self-employed contractor, 50, was carrying out repairs inside the cooker at the firm’s Bones Lane site in Cheddleton, Leek on November 5 2011 when the incident happened.

While inside the cooker, steam from elsewhere in the system fed into the area. He was badly scalded and died in hospital the following day from his injuries.

Bullock of Milton, Stoke on Trent, was allowed to enter the cooker without the proper precautions being taken, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found.

‘Not considered the risks’

The company had not properly considered the risks of entering the cooker, had failed to put in place a safe system of work, and did not competently manage the work as it was taking place, said the HSE.

Stafford Crown Court heard that in 2004 another employee was killed at the same site when he entered a confined space without proper precautions being taken.

John Pointon & Sons Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on Monday 29 June 2015.

After sentencing HSE inspector Wayne Owen said: “The cookers in operation at the company form the core part of the business. Steam and hot vapours getting into the cookers from other connected pieces of equipment is foreseeable, and precautions should have been taken to ensure all avenues which had the potential to allow steam to be fed back into the cooker had been suitably isolated.

“John Pointon and Sons Ltd failed to do this and it cost Mark Bullock his life.”

‘Extremely dangerous’

Owen said the firm were “fully aware”​ that work in confined spaces was “extremely dangerous”​ having already had one fatality at the site.

“Companies must identify what measures should be taken to ensure the safety of their workforce,” ​he said.

“I would urge any company that carries out work in confined spaces to double check their procedures.”

A tribute has been put up at the site, funded by friends, according to his partner Christine Knowles.

It includes a tree and a stone with the inscription ‘How difficult can it be?’ – a phrase he used to say a lot.

Knowles said the company should have made sure Bullock was safe.

“Every company should do the same for their workers,”​ she added. “Mark was a great man. He touched many people’s hearts and broke mine when he died.

“Mark had a great passion for life. In some ways he never grew up. He loved fairgrounds and holidays and loved to sing and dance. He had an extremely generous nature and a wicked sense of humour.”

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood

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