The Managing Director of a Derbyshire firm was caught using a “dangerous” machine which “could have exploded” just two hours after it had been condemned by the Health and Safety Inspectorate.

Matthew Holmes “put his life and the lives of his employees at risk of death or serious injury” by using the compressed air receiver that was used for blasting refurbished skips at WFP Fabrications, Stanton-by-Dale.

HSE Inspector Stuart Parry, prosecuting at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, told how he found 17 breaches of regulations during a first visit to the Lows Lane site in August 2015.

Two months later, he returned to check on the premises and found the air receiver in use and said Mr Holmes and his staff “did not know the maximum allowable pressure” the machine could be safely used by.

Mr Parry issued a prohibition notice on the machine but, just two hours later, he returned and found Holmes operating the condemned machine.

Handing Holmes, of Buller Street, Ilkeston, a 30-week jail term, suspended for two years, Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: “You showed total disregard for your own safety and the safety of others.”

“It beggars belief that a prohibition notice can be served on someone in a senior position and, only two hours later, that same person is caught operating the machinery.”

“It shows flagrant disregard for the HSE and, in both matters, there was a systematic failure. This is a serious offence. Why is it a serious offence? Because health and safety is not an optional extra and a well-run, properly-maintained business puts health and safety at the forefront.”

Mr Parry said he first visited WFP Fabrications, which supplied and refurbishes skips and containers, in August 2015 after a complaint was received about it from an ex-employee.

He said an inspection found 17 breaches of regulations, including a dangerously-tilted skip which was being sprayed, inadequate dust masks and safety guards that were not functioning correctly.

A second inspection, in October 2015, discovered the air receiver was being used and that Mr Holmes and his staff “did not know the safe operating limits” of it. Mr Parry issued a prohibition notice on Mr Holmes and told him not to use the machine.

He told the court: “I visited a neighbouring firm and then, two hours later, I returned to WFP and Mr Holmes had re-energised and was using the air receiver. There was a risk of serious injury or death if it had failed, there was a risk of an explosion.”

Holmes, who employs between 10 and 20 people at the Ilkeston firm, was charged with breaching sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act and breaching a prohibition notice, both of which he pleaded guilty to.

As well as the suspended jail term for Holmes, the company was fined £25,000 and both Holmes and the company were ordered to pay £1,642.50 each in prosecution costs. Andrew Brammer, mitigating, said his client had remedied his failures at WFP Fabrications since the HSE visits.

He said: “In the cold light of day and with the benefit of hindsight he should not have done what he did. But he was desperate to get the job finished for a customer.”

Source:  Derby Telegraph