Dragged into paper making machine and crushed to death

Father-of-two Richard Zebedee died from multiple injuries in April 2009 after he was pulled into fast-moving machinery whilst working for Arjo Wiggins in Stowford Mill in Ivybridge.

Richard, from Ivybridge, had been promoted to the job of drierman two weeks earlier, after taking up employment with the firm 18 months previously so that he could work closer to home.

Arjo Wiggins admitted failing to protect the 45-year-old from the risks of operating a paper making machine. The company admitted to failing to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable that the machinery was not accessible and that a risk of injury was created for employees. They also accepted that they contributed to Richard’s death.

The company was fined £200,000 plus costs at Plymouth Crown Court on October 22, 2012.

Jury criticised guarding around machine and company training procedures

An inquest into Richard’s death heard that at the time of the accident he was trying to remove paper waste from the rollers of the machine. The hearing was told an inspection by the HSE found safety measures were not being followed. The jury criticised the guarding around the machine and company training procedures.

Richard, who was a member of Unite the Union, left behind his wife, Sarah, and two daughters now aged, 10 and 14.

Following his death Unite Legal Services offered support to Sarah in pursuing a civil claim against Arjo Wiggins. Unite Legal Services instructed Thompsons Solicitors to act on the members behalf. The claim is ongoing.

Died needlessly because of gross failure to make sure work was safe

Sarah said: “Words cannot describe the gap which has been left in our lives by Richard’s death. He loved his family and had taken on this job so he could spend more time with his girls. He was much-loved by family, friends and his colleagues. His untimely death has left us all devastated.

“No-one in this day and age should have to deal with their loved ones walking out the door never to return but unfortunately it happens to too many families.

“Today’s court decision can never bring back Richard but does give us a sense of justice. We are pursuing a civil claim but we hope that this HSE prosecution has given Arjo Wiggins food for thought and that they make sure this can never happen again.”

Laurence Faircloth, Unite the Union regional secretary said: “We welcome this decision by the Crown Court. It should act as a wake up call for all employers in the region. Mr Zebedee died needlessly because of Arjo Wiggins’ gross failure to make sure the work he was doing was safe.”

Lisa Gunner from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This is a tragic waste of life which could have been avoided had Arjo Wiggins taken its health and safety responsibilities seriously. These young girls have lost a father, whilst Richard’s wife has been left without her husband of almost 21 years. Alongside Unite Legal Services we will be pursuing a civil claim on the family’s behalf.”