Worker crushed by steel bars of lettuce drying machine

AN inquest into the death of a worker in a food processing plant has heard he died after he was crushed between two steel bars of a lettuce drying machine while trying to brush underneath it.

Alexandr Sciogolev, 24, from tSean Mhargadh apartment, Drogheda, had been working at Nature’s Best, Donore road, Drogheda, when the accident happened on October 6, 2007.

Drogheda Coroner’s Court heard that it appeared he had gone to clean under the machine after it had stopped – which sometimes happened if there was too much salad in it – but that another worker had then turned it back on.

The Coroner Ronan Maguire was told this worker, “never imagined somebody would be under it,” and he re-started it but this resulted in Alexandr being crushed.

A cleaner at the company said that at about 6.15am he had gone into the trimming line room and seen the man crouched under the hydraulic spin dryer “sweeping up loose lettuce leafs”.

When the cleaner returned to the room a few minutes later he saw the man was “caught underneath the spin dryer and shouting for help. It was crushing him as he was caught between two rectangular bars”.

He could hear him shout because he did not have ear muffs on but workers in that room did have them on.

An emergency stop button was pressed and staff tried to help him but he was pronounced dead by an on-call doctor at 7.20am. It took eight men to lift the dryer off him.

Team leader Ivars Skuskavrieks said it was “not Alexandr’s job to go in there… he can clean it from the side when necessary”.

He said there are protective grills on the machine and if it is necessary to go into it, there is an access door which automatically shuts off power.

He said he had not instructed him to clean there but agreed with Brian O’Regan BL, for the dead man’s family, that he had not told him not to go under it.

Wojciech Bialas, who Alexandr was helping the day he died, said he did not see him go underneath the machine because he was setting up another machine for a new product.

When he had done this and went to then set up the spin dryer for the new product, he saw it was turned off.

“I turned it back on again. After a few seconds I heard shouts that I saw Alexandr crushed by the machine.”

He pressed the emergency stop button which stopped the machine but did not release the dryer.

He said Alexandr should “not have went under the dryer, it was not his duty to clean in there”.

The inquest heard Alexandr had been with the company since September 17 and had according to human resource manager Gerry Thorpe “received full induction and safety training when he joined the company”.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

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