Massive £2.1 million fine after workman suffers horrific and fatal injuries

A chipboard manufacturer has been fined more than £2.1m after a workman suffered horrific fatal burns and scalding.

Deadly, the wood burner at Nordbord in Cowie
Deadly, the wood burner at Nordbord in Cowie

Norbord Europe Limited was found guilty of two charges under health and safety legislation on earlier this month at Perth Sheriff Court.

The court heard that in July 2016 at the company’s site in Cowie, Stirlingshire, George Laird, along with three colleagues, was involved in maintenance work on a wood drier.

During this work, a high-pressure hose was used to remove hot ash from within a hot gas duct above a combustion chamber.

The combustion chamber played a key role in the tragedy

Mr Laird, 64, who was in the area below the combustion chamber, was enveloped by hot water, steam and ash and sustained burns over 90 percent of his body. He died from his injuries the next day despite efforts to save his life.

A subsequent inquiry led by experts from the Health and Safety Executive(HSW) investigation found evidence of a catalogue of failings by the company.

Evidence emerged at a trial which showed that Nordbord had failed to provide a safe system of work for employees removing hot ash from the system.

Works squads were left to devise their own methods of working and put at risk of injury from falling ash within the combustion chamber since its installation at the site in October 2014. There were several near misses involving other employees working during that time.

The Nordbord

The company was also shown to have failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which their employees were exposed and comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed by the statutory provisions.

Following the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, Assistant Procurator Fiscal and Head of the Health and Safety Investigation Unit, said: “This was a lengthy and complex case. The detailed evidence led against Norbord Europe Limited over the four-week trial allowed the jury to come to a unanimous verdict.

“The tragic death of George Laird could have been prevented had suitable and sufficient measures been put in place.

“The prosecution and the sentence serve to highlight that a failure to fulfil health and safety obligations can have tragic consequences and those responsible will be held to account for their failings.”

Passing his condolences to Mr Laird’s family, said added:"Our thoughts are with Mr Laird’s family at this difficult time."

HSE inspector Garry Miller added: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to set up safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers to carry out the safe methods of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the death of Mr Laird could have been prevented.”

Norbord Europe Limited was found guilty of two charges under Section 2(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Regulation 3(1) and the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 20 Sections 15 & 33(1)(c) at Perth Sheriff Court on 1 November 2022.

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