Gallaher fined over crush death
Northern Ireland's best-known tobacco producer has been fined £150,000 for health and safety breaches after an employee was crushed to death while carrying out maintenance work.
Engineer Trevor Allen, 63, was working at Gallaher Ltd's Ballymena factory when a robot arm weighing a quarter of a ton went into freefall. It trapped his head and shoulders on top of a scaffold bar in July last year and he died four days later.
A Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigation showed no maintenance engineer present had been trained to carry out the repair work on a machine for stacking products. The company had not carried out a risk assessment, the HSENI said.
Gallaher Ltd was fined £150,000 plus costs during a hearing at Antrim Crown Court. The company previously pleaded guilty to breaching a health and safety at work order and a management of health and safety at work regulation.
It emerged during the HSENI investigation that there were no maintenance manuals available providing instruction on how the job should have been done. Other people in the factory had been trained and did know how to do the job, but an attempt to contact one of them was made too late to save Mr Allen, the HSENI said in a statement following the case.
Gallaher Group is part of multinational Japan Tobacco but was founded in Northern Ireland. The company makes cigarettes for the UK market at Lisnafillan, near Ballymena, and also produces Virginia-blended cigarettes for export. The 50-acre site also houses a pipe and roll-your-own tobacco factory and some research and development facilities.
Robert Bisaillon, managing director of JTI's (Japan Tobacco International) Lisnafillan factory, expressed his deepest sadness.
"Trevor Allen was a valued member of our team for 33 years and his death has been deeply felt by everyone at the factory. Our thoughts remain with his wife, his two sons and his extended family. We sincerely regret that this tragic accident occurred and recognise and acknowledge the family's devastating loss," he said.
"Our business has a long history in Northern Ireland and we are proud of the dedication and the quality of our employees in the Lisnafillan factory. We place the utmost priority on the health and safety of employees, work rigorously to minimise risk, and are committed to continual health and safety improvement."
According to the company, the court heard JTI fully co-operated with the HSENI investigation at all times and the company accepted two breaches of health and safety law.