London – A Kent businessman has been sentenced after a worker lost his right forearm when it got caught and mangled in an unguarded tire-shredding machine.
Mark Anton Arabaje, sole director of now-dissolved company Cartwright Projects, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it found he had removed a protective guard from the dangerous machine only a couple of weeks earlier.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that father-of-four Nathan Johnson, 25, of Folkestone, was working at the firm’s premises at Unit 1 Shottenden Manor, Westwell, Ashford, Kent, on 27 November 2013 when the incident happened.
He had been putting tires by hand into the shredder when the machine failed to grip one properly on its metal teeth. Johnson grabbed the remaining half and fed it in. At that point, his right jacket sleeve got entangled on the metal teeth and his fingers and then forearm were dragged into the running shredder.
As Johnson screamed for help, Mark Arabaje came and managed to switch the machine off and freed him from the machine. He lost the forearm up to his elbow and needed extensive hospital treatment, including skin grafts from his left leg to replace the remains of his arm and a bolt in his elbow to ensure it remained intact.
The court was told Johnson’s injuries could have been even worse if he had been working on his own that day, which regularly happened in the company, as there were no emergency stop switches within his reach at the time.
HSE’s investigation identified that Mark Arabaje had removed the metal bucket guard of the shredding machine earlier the same month, thus allowing easy access to the metal teeth.
HSE told the court it would have also prosecuted the company had it still existed.
Mark Arabaje, of Gatefield Cottages, Rolvenden, Cranbrook, Kent, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
On 17 July, he was sentenced to a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He must observe a home curfew between the hours of 8pm and 6am and wear an electronic tag. The judge imposed a £5,000 compensation order that Arabaje must pay Johnson.
In a victim statement to the court, Johnson, who has not been in work since, said: “It has knocked me back regarding my mobility and it is a struggle getting around. It has had a massive impact on my home life with my four children. I still suffer pain with the injuries.”
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson said: “Nathan Johnson would never have suffered these horrific, life-changing injuries if Mr Arabaje, the company director, had not removed the guard from the tire-shredder.
“Company directors need to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously to prevent such tragic events occurring in the future.
“They have a significant role to play in protecting workers from injury at work and this case demonstrates that such incidents can and do lead to directors being prosecuted if there is evidence of their consent, connivance or neglect to breaches in the law.”