Wakefield firm WE Rawson fined more than £100k over workplace death in Portobello

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A textile firm has been ordered to pay more than £115,000 in fines and costs after a worker was crushed and killed by a falling stack of rag bales.

Mr Welka was struck by the top two bales of rags, each weighing more than 300kg, when a column of bales collapsed.

WE Rawson Ltd was yesterday (Monday) sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for a serious breach of safety legislation.

The company had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

WE Rawson Ltd, of Portobello Road, Wakefield, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £15,839 costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After the incident, Health and Safety Executive inspector Geoff Fletcher said:“This tragic incident could have been avoided had WE Rawson taken its duty of care toward its employees sufficiently seriously. The sad consequence of the company’s failures is an unnecessary loss of life and the devastating impact this has had on Mr Welka’s partner, family and friends.

“The company was aware that the rag bales were unstable as there was a history of them collapsing. There were simple and straightforward steps that could have been taken to ensure that the stability of the bales did not present a risk to pedestrian workers in the warehouse area. Those measures were not taken.

“After Mr Welka’s death, the company adopted different stacking practices improving the stability of the stacks, reduced the need for pedestrians in the warehouse and improved the control of pedestrians in the warehouse. That is to be welcomed and expected, but cannot compensate for the loss of a life.”