£120k fine for Tata Steel after worker suffers brain damage

Tata Steel fined
Tata Steel UK plant in Port Talbot, Wales (Image: Ian Redding via

Tata Steel UK has been fined £120,000 after a worker suffered serious head injuries when he was hit in the face with a scaffold pole.

Gavin Rowlands, an employee at Monolithic Refractories Ltd, sustained permanent brain damage as a result of the incident on 3 April 2017.

He had been preparing to start a paddle mixer to mix concrete at Tata Steel UK’s site in Port Talbot, Wales. He found that the paddle mixer door would not open as hard concrete had built around it.

One of Rowlands’ colleagues managed to open the door using a scaffold pole. This caused the pole to spin and hit Rowlands in the face with such force that he was thrown backwards, hitting his head and losing consciousness.

This led to Rowlands breaking his jaw and suffering permanent brain damage.

An accident that could have been ‘easily avoided’

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Tata Steel UK provided an unguarded mixer for Monolithic’s employees to use and that the mixer’s door regularly jammed.

Tata Steel UK also failed to ensure a safe system of work was in place to release the mixer’s door.

The investigation also found that as the mixer was unguarded, workers were able to develop and adopt an unsafe system of work to release the door, which ultimately resulted in Rowlands’ injuries.

Tata Steel UK also failed to supervise workers who were using the mixer at its site.

Tata Steel UK Limited, of Grosvenor Place, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £14,138.06 in costs at Swansea Crown Court on 5 July 2023.   

HSE inspector Gethyn Jones said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by implementing suitable control measures and safe working practices.

“Ensuring that safe systems of work are adopted and supplemented with adequate supervision to ensure they are followed is a fundamental requirement of the Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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