Staff took short cuts with paper bailer
By Kevin Burchall
Swindon Evening Advertiser
A FORMER soldier who died after falling into an industrial paper bailer had not been given health and safety training for working the machine, an inquest heard.
Paul McGuire, 33, of Greatfield, near Wootton Bassett, had worked at the Sita recycling depot, just off the A419 near Cricklade, for less than three months when he lost his life.
He had been trying to clear a cardboard blockage at the top of the bailer on August 16, 2005 while the machine was still on.
And an inquest at Swindon's Civic Offices heard that under-pressure staff would regularly use a "short cut" to clear cardboard blockages in order to save 10 minutes from their 12-hour days.
The jury of five men and three women were also told that there was a lack of management at the depot in the months leading up to Mr McGuire's death with no one seemingly at the helm.
A safety harness had also been removed from the bailing machine before Mr McGuire's death, which staff said was sometimes used in the process of clearing any blockages.
Yard worker William Miles, of Bourne Road, Moredon, said he had seen Mr McGuire moments before his death standing at the top of the bailer's stationary conveyor belt.
He said he panicked when he saw he had vanished minutes later and rang his mobile phone to see where his colleague was.
He thought he must have been on the phone to his wife Sophie as the phone was engaged, but another colleague later discovered Mr McGuire's body in the bailer machine.
When asked by coroner David Masters if most members of staff did not turn off the machinery when dealing with blockages, Mr Miles replied: "Yes sir. We have all done it to be honest with you."
He added that he had not seen any documents relating to the safe working of the machine until the Health and Safety Executive presented him with a copy following Mr McGuire's death.
Fellow colleague Gordon Sheppard said he had used the short cut himself, but had also made sure someone was with him in case of an emergency.
But he confirmed that he too had not seen the health and safety guidelines.
Stewart Liddell, of Richards Close, Wootton Bassett, was the site foreman at the time of the incident.
He said there were no documents at the time explaining the safe working practices of the machine, but later admitted that he may have seen them on a previous health and safety training course.
He said the depot was very busy and that staff were working 12-hour days. He said the short cut method of clearing blockages would probably save workers 10 minutes.
Former Cricklade depot manager Ian Scott-Browne said all staff were aware of health and safety procedures prior to him taking up a different position in the company in March, 2005.
His predecessor, Cirencester depot manager Simon Fry, was brought in to oversee both of the company's operations and described how he did not start at the plant until after July 1 the same year and even then his visits to Cricklade were sporadic.
The inquest heard how Sita had implemented stringent health and safety guidelines and practices since the death of Mr McGuire including modifications to bailing machines.
The inquest continues.