Company fined £133k for employee death

Railcare was fined £133,000 at Glasgow Sheriff Court

A COMPANY has been fined £133,000 after an employee died from head injuries while carrying out maintenance work in Glasgow.

John Smith, 53, died in December 2008 was injured a while cleaning a train axle with a machine called a lathe.

Last month the company he was working for, Railcare, admitted multiple health and safety failures over Mr Smith’s death.

One of the machines which Mr Smith used was a Universal and Production Centre Lathe, referred to at Railcare as the axle lathe.

The axle lathe was somewhere in the region of 25 years old at the time of the incident. Given its age, it did not come with interlocking guarding, but guarding was available for the dangerous parts of the machine and should have been in use.

The dangerous part of the lathe was the chuck, which is the part used to clamp and rotate work pieces.  This is also the element of the lathe which spins the work piece – at the time of John Smith’s death, the chuck was spinning towards him at 600 rpm.


Mr Smith came into contact with the unguarded chuck and sustained the head injuries from which he died.

Following the case, Elaine Taylor, Head of the COPFS Health and Safety Division, said: “This case yet again demonstrates the crucial importance of employers carrying out suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to their employees in the course of their daily work, taking the steps necessary to identify such risks, and thereafter ensuring that safe systems of work are in place and dangerous machinery parts are properly guarded.  Railcare failed in each of these respects in relation to the axle lathe.

“As a result, Mr Smith lost his life in an entirely avoidable incident.

“Today our thoughts are with his family.”

HSE inspector Lesley Hammond said after the case: “This is a tragic incident that need never have happened.  Although lathes are common in workplaces throughout the country, they are potentially lethal.  A chuck guard should always be in place and safe working practices should always be adhered to.

“In this case, supervision throughout the company failed to act on these matters.  This contributed to a working environment which had safety procedures in place on paper, but permitted them to be disregarded in practice.”