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Shocking video shows workers risking their lives at recycling centre where worker died

Shocking footage of workers taking risking their lives sorting out metal at a recycling firm has been released by police.

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Video of dangerous working practices at Alutrade Ltd in Oldbury. Image: West Midlands Police

Alutrade Ltd was fined £2 million for corporate manslaughter after Stuart Towns, 34, died from a head injury at the Tat Bank Road yard in 2017.

CCTV footage in the lead up to his death shows the blatant disregard to health and safety.

Footage from the day of the tragedy shows Mr Towns walking into an area underneath a hopper, which housed powerful engines used to feed a conveyor belt with scrap metal for processing.

A gate preventing workers from getting to the area had broken, and the machine should have been shut down and isolated if any kind of maintenance or cleaning work needed to be done on it.

Minutes later, his body was discovered by distraught colleagues. He’d suffered catastrophic head injuries and died at the scene.

Four days earlier, forklift driver Mr Towns had been told not to work so close to the hopper after being spotted by managing director Malcolm George.

He was spotted on CCTV working dangerously close to the machinery 40 minutes before his death, but George, who was stood nearby, took no action.

A major investigation by detectives and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) saw an entire month’s worth of CCTV analysed, with hundreds of breaches found.

They included workers jumping up and down on metal in a hopper to clear blockages, a forklift truck driven by Malcolm George being used to lift Mr Towns 18ft into the air to clear a blockage, with no safety rigging and even staff walking on a conveyor belt to clear blockages.

Alutrade Ltd admitted corporate manslaughter and Malcolm George, 55, of Bromsgrove, director Kevin Pugh, 46, from Sutton Coldfield, and health and safety manager Mark Redfern, 61, of Rowley Regis, were initially charged with

Gross Negligence Manslaughter, but instead pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Stuart Towns died after shocking lapses in health and safety

They admitted the charge on the basis that their failings didn’t cause the death, but together the management of the company amounted to corporate manslaughter.

Today at Wolverhampton Crown Court, Alutrade Ltd was fined £2m with £105,514 costs.

Malcolm George was fined - £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,109.

Kevin Pugh was fined £5,318 and ordered to pay £3,854 costs.

Mark Redfern was fined £2,635 and the company ordered to pay his costs.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Hannah Whitehouse said: "Stuart’s death should never have happened, but sadly it was an incident waiting to happen. He and other staff at Alutrade Ltd were operating in a culture where dangerous working practices were regularly overlooked.

"You do not need a detailed understanding of health and safety legislation to know from watching the footage that workers were frequently allowed to risk their lives.

“The company put profit before health and safety and it cost Stuart his life. I hope today’s convictions and hefty fines act as a deterrent to anyone else involved in the industry who hasn’t got their workers’ safety as the top priority.”

CCTV showed workers jumping up and down on metal in a hopper to clear blockages. Image: West Midlands Police

Mr Towns' family said today: "After five years we now feel we can start to focus on the happy times we shared as a family with Stuart.

"We hope that lessons can be learned from the way that Stuart died and hope that no other family goes through what we have been through.

"It's now time for us to focus on the good memories we have of Stuart."

HSE inspector Jan Willets said: “Serious injuries to workers in waste and recycling are too common; and robust health and safety management by employers would reduce the risk.

“If the gates preventing access to the conveyor had been repaired, workers would not have been put at risk and Stuart Towns’ fatal injuries could have been prevented.”

A statement from Alutrade said: "We want to again express our deep remorse at the death of Stuart Towns, a valued and much liked employee.

"Nothing can bring Stuart back but we trust that these proceedings will have provided his loved ones with some answers.

"We hope that they can draw some comfort from the fact that, as remarked upon by the sentencing judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Martin Spencer, lessons have been learnt and the company has subsequently transformed its approach to managing and enforcing health and safety on site.

"We accept the company is responsible for Stuart’s manslaughter by virtue of gross negligence. We fell short of the required standard by allowing him to work in the immediate vicinity of machinery known as the ‘Biffa Line’ when it was unguarded by lockable gates.

"It was, though, acknowledged by the judge that before this tragic accident the Company had clearly defined health and safety policies and procedures in place which profiled risks. It had had a good health and safety record, but sadly as far as the Biffa Line was concerned, the company had not adhered to its policies and procedures in practice.

"The company took swift action to remedy the deficiencies highlighted by the accident and the judge gave credit for this in his sentencing remarks.

"The directors are passionate in their commitment to ensuring that the company’s premises at Oldbury will be the safest metal recycling site in Europe and they believe that they are close to reaching this goal."