Kirkby Sonae factory deaths 'due to poor safety'

Image caption,
Thomas Elmer (left) and James Bibby died from multiple injuries

Two engineers were killed when they were dragged into a conveyor belt while carrying out repairs in a Merseyside chipboard factory, a jury has heard.

James Bibby, 25, and Thomas Elmer, 27, both from Rossendale, Lancashire, died working on a 150ft (45m) silo at the Sonae factory in Kirkby on 7 December.

Their deaths were caused by a failure to isolate the machinery the two sub-contractors were working on, an inquest at Bootle Town Hall heard.

The Kirkby factory closed in September.

Coroner's officer Lynda Roberts told the inquest the repairs were almost complete when the conveyor belt started up and the men were dragged into the machinery.

John Moutrie, a specialist mechanical inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, told the jury the incident occurred while the work was carried out "without the conveyor belt being isolated".

'Not trained'

He said: "The conveyor would not have run if the isolator was off and the incident could not have occurred."

Mr Moutrie questioned the Sonae safety procedures and said the staff member responsible for safety was "apparently not trained" and "may not have been competent to authorise the permit to work procedure".

Mr Moutrie added that Mr Bibby and Mr Elmer should also have checked their own machine and applied isolation "locks" prior to starting work.

He said: "In my opinion if it is an outside contractor working on the site it's doubly important that it's inspected by the issuer."

The inquest heard the conveyor belt had been triggered automatically as factory machinery started to dump wood chips into the silo.

Image caption,
The chipboard factory opened in 2000 and closed in September

A post mortem examination found both men died from multiple injuries.

The inquest is being presided over by Merseyside Coroner Christopher Sumner and is expected to continue for about three weeks.

Production finished at the factory in September with the loss of 220 jobs.

The site, which opened in 2000, was badly damaged by a large fire in June in which a demolition worker - James Dennis Kay, 62, from Heywood, Greater Manchester - died.

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