A SALTCOATS man this week denied withholding vital information about the safety of employees at a slaughterhouse where a worker died after being crushed by a cow carcass.
Robert Paterson, of Sharphill Road, has spent five days giving evidence at the trial of his employers, Sandyford Abattoir (Paisley) Limited, and Merit Projects Limited, the firm who supplied them with a cattle slaughtering production line.
Both firms are on trial at Paisley Sheriff Court accused of health and safety breaches following a police investigation into the death of amateur cage fighter Alexander McCrae in November 2011.
The 23-year-old was originally from Kilmarnock and had been living in Dumbarton at the time of his death.
He was washing his hands at a sink near to the production line of the Paisley abattoir during his shift on November 17, 2011, when he was hit by the dead animal, which fell from an overhead shackle.
The cow which struck McCrae weighed over 100 stone and caused him fatal injuries.
Merit claim they gave Paterson, Sandyford’s Company Secretary, several manuals on how to use the system - including the dos and don’ts associated with it - in October 2008.
A Company Secretary is responsible for ensuring a company complies with the laws surrounding the industry they work in and health and safety legislation.
Among the dos and don’ts on using the slaughter production line, the court heard, were instructions that employees should never enter restricted areas, “stand well clear when the system is in operation” and were “under no circumstances to stand under a load.”
The instructions should have been conveyed to engineers and abattoir staff working in the slaughterhouse.
The court also heard that Paterson’s police statement - which he gave on November 19, 2011, two days after the fatal incident - contained the words: “Police have taken a copy of the electrical circuit diagrams, produced by Merit Projects Limited, for the system installed in the slaughterhouse area.”
But this week Paterson claimed he never had the manuals - and didn’t know how police got them.
The 62-year-old explained: “I don’t recall where they came from. They took a lot of paperwork - I don’t know what they took. I don’t know what I gave them.”
And he denied claims from Merit’s lawyer, Advocate Susan Duff, that he withheld vital information from employees and colleagues.
The lawyer said: “You were in possession of that manual and all the other manuals. It would make sense.
“Once Alexander McCrae had died you wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for not sharing the information with the people that needed to know.
“You never made them available to the people who needed them, did you?”
Paterson, who worked for British Steel for 23 years before being made redundant at 40, replied: “I never had the manuals.
“I don’t have any recollection of getting the manuals.”
When asked by Sandyford’s Advocate, Stephen O’Rourke, how the atmosphere was in the abattoir during the police investigation, Paterson replied: “tense.”
Paterson, who retrained in computing and health and safety after losing his job with British Steel, refuted claims he was “provided with a big stack of manuals” by a Merit employee.
The firms deny breaking the law in how their employees installed, operated and maintained the cattle slaughter line.
The charges are brought under the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992, European Communities Act 1972, Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Merit deny four charges of failing to assess the hazards of machinery they supplied the abattoir, failing to draw up a technical file detailing calculation notes, test results and hazard elimination methods, failing to retain a technical file and failing to supply a machine which “could not be misused”.
Sandyford Abattoir deny the three charges of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, failing to make “a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety” and failing to organise, control, monitor and review how the size of their operation would affect the health and safety of their employees.
The trial continues.