Home / News / Man suffered brain injury at Tata steelworks in Port Talbot after safety breach, jury told

Man suffered brain injury at Tata steelworks in Port Talbot after safety breach, jury told

Aug 02, 2023Aug 02, 2023

Gavin Rowlands had tried to operate a refractory mixer when the accident happened, prompting a Health and Safety Executive investigation

A worker suffered a bleed to the brain after a machinery accident which a court prosecutor says was a result of an employer failing to ensure the safety of workers.

Monolithic Refractories Limited is on trial at Swansea Crown Court charged with failing to ensure the health and safety and welfare of its employees - including Gavin Rowlands - in relation to the risks arising from the use of a refractory mixer, on or before April 3, 2017. It denies the charge.

Prosecution counsel Christian Jowett, explained that the trial focuses on a refractory mixer Monolithic workers had to use during the course of their work at Tata Steelworks in Port Talbot. In 2016, an agreement has been entered into for Monolithic to provide repair and maintenance services at the steelworks.

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On April 3, 2017, Mr Rowlands sustained serious head injuries whilst operating the mixer. The court heard how a door had become stuck at the bottom of the machinery - something that was not uncommon. During training, workers had witnessed Tata employees flicking a toggle switch up and down and tapping on a door with a hammer to release it.

Mr Rowlands and another tried worker to release door. Mr Rowlands tried to flick the toggle switch up and down, whilst a co-worker had started using a scaffolding bar, tapping on a hydraulic door which had become stuck in an attempt to release it. But in doing so, the bar slipped into the mixer and became stuck. It struck upwards, hitting Mr Rowlands, knocking him unconscious.

Mr Rowlands was rushed to hospital where he spent five days to be treated for a broken jaw and a bleed to the brain. He also had two teeth removed.

The incident prompted a Health and Safety Executive investigation, and Mr Jowett said it led to the watchdog noticing that safety measures were not being taken on site.

He explained that a guard should have been in place on the machinery, which would have prevented the accident from happening. Mr Jowett also explained how there was unrestricted access to dangerous parts of mixer which would have made it possible to insert hands or arms into mixer when it was in use.

Mr Jowett said: "This case is about risk, not about describing responsibility for the cause of the injury, it is about avoiding it in first place. Those risks became reality. They became reality because of Monolithic's failure to stop them becoming reality. Had risks been established, an appropriate guard would have been fitted."

The trial continues.