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Firm fined over engineer's death

A global fruit juice and smoothie company has been fined £80,000 for safety failings which led to the death of an engineer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Gavin Bedford, 24, was working on the dismantling and demolition of industrial pipework at Gerber Juice Company's premises in Llantrisant, South Wales, when he was killed.

The 300kg structure collapsed and struck the electro-mechanical engineer from Porthcawl - a well-known surfing and British trial-biking champion described by his family as the "perfect son and friend" - on June 16 2010.

The hazardous project had been left in the hands of a production manager for the juice factory who had no previous experience in that sort of work or formal training for it.

A safety officer, based in Somerset, only visited the site once or twice a fortnight, the HSE said.

Gerber Juice, now trading under the name Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, was today fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £75,000 costs at Newport Crown Court.

It came after the company, which according to its website works with well-known brands such as Del Monte, innocent, Sunny D and Just Juice, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety Act.

HSE inspector Liam Osborne said: "Gavin Bedford, a young hard-working and highly-regarded engineer, was killed because of Gerber's basic corporate failure to plan, manage and monitor a construction project.

"Any demolition or dismantling work must be set down in writing and strictly monitored - as the law requires. It is also basic common sense.

"If Gerber had given enough time at the beginning to think through what needed to be done, and how it should be done, then Gavin would still be here today."

Gerber closed its Llantrisant factory in 2010 as it moved production to Bridgwater in Somerset.

Mr Bedford was temporarily kept on as a small number of employees assisting specialist contractors with stripping the factory of its plant, machinery and services.

But Gerber elected to deal with the hazardous project themselves rather than appointing a principal contractor.

As a consequence, the firm overlooked the dangers involved in various tasks such as the removal of overhead industrial pipes and their supporting structures.

Outside court, Mr Bedford's father, Nigel Bedford, blasted Gerber for not looking after his son properly.

"There was no planning for the job and the area wasn't cordoned off," he said after the sentencing.

"The management involved in the work didn't have a clue what was going on."

Mr Bedford's mother, Anna Bedford, said she had been left "heartbroken" by her son's death.

She said: "Gavin was a perfect son. He was a perfect friend.

"It was as if Gavin was put on this Earth to do such wonderful things - to help anybody that needed him.

"He touched everyone he knew and he had thousands of friends.

"I am so proud to have been Gavin's mother. The world is a poorer place without him."


From Belfast Telegraph