Man injured twice in work accidents was not to blame as firm is fined £8,000
A RETIRED rail worker who claims he was sacked after suffering two major injuries at work said he was relieved after the company involved was fined £8,000 for breaching health and safety regulations.
Keith Hawley, of Derby Road, Chaddesden, who worked for Balfour Beatty for 12 years, suffered two hand injuries less than a year apart and said he was later "dismissed for gross misconduct".
As a result, he was left with depression but said the Nottingham Crown Court verdict had given him "closure".
The first accident happened in May 2009 when Mr Hawley was manoeuvring a large piece of rail track into a press at the firm's factory in Sandiacre. His right hand became trapped between the rail and a conveyor roller and he suffered flesh wounds and two crushed fingers.
In March 2010, Mr Hawley's other hand was also seriously injured when it became trapped while he carried out the same work. The little finger on his left hand was severely crushed and his ring finger had to be partially amputated.
The 65-year-old said after the second incident, disciplinary action was brought against him and he was sacked. He said: "I've never been out of work in my life. As my injuries were healing, I started with depression.
Mr Hawley said he settled out of court before a tribunal for unfair dismissal was held.
Nottingham Crown Court heard yesterday that an investigation by the HSE found that on both occasions the roller machine did not have adequate guarding to protect workers.
It heard that the company was in the process of fitting a guarding system in response to the first accident but had not completed the task.
Balfour Beatty Rail Track Systems Ltd, based in Surrey, was found guilty of breaching part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to provide a safe system of work.
As well as being fined, the company was ordered to pay costs of £41,438.
Mr Hawley said he felt "buoyed" and "relieved" by the court's decision and had a sense of closure.
He said: "After I lost my job I tried to get another job but had panic attacks before my interviews."
After the hearing, HSE inspector Brian Price said: "Both of these incidents were preventable. Guarding could and should have been provided, but there were other systems of work in the company's operating manuals that could have been used, such as using an overhead crane to move the rail or using a pulling bracket.
"Instead workers like Keith Hawley were left to their own devices and adopted an unsafe system that exposed them to injury risk.
"The fact that this incident happened once was bad enough but for it to have happened a second time, to the same man, is deplorable.
"Balfour Beatty should have acted a lot quicker than they did.
"Mr Hawley has suffered unnecessarily because of their failings."
A Balfour Beatty spokesman said: "Although we no longer operate the Sandiacre manufacturing plant where this incident occurred, the company will ensure that these types of accidents are prevented in the future.
"We take the safety of all our employees very seriously and we were pleased that this was acknowledged in today's judgement."