Scottish recycling company fined £24,000 after worker suffers multiple finger amputations

A family-run recycling business in Scotland has been fined £24,000 after a worker sustained serious injuries to his hand and arm on the blades of a machine.


Barry Edward Pae, formerly known as Barry Edward Vaughan, an employee of W M Russell & Sons Limited in Dunfermline was left seriously injured after he attempted to change the blades of a rapid granulator machine, used to grind down scrap materials.


Scottish recycling company fined


However, he sustained serious and irreversible injuries including the complete amputation of his left index, middle and ring fingers, and an open fracture to his left wrist following the incident on 9 April 2021.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company failed to provide a safe system of work for changing the cutter blades. This included a failure to provide sufficient information, instruction, and training on how to isolate the granulator when changing the cutter blades or carrying out other maintenance.

At Dunfermline Sheriff Court on 30 May 2024, WM. Russell & Sons Limited of Lilliehill, Dunfermline pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Section 2(1), and 33(1)(a) between 2 April and 9 April 2021, both dates inclusive. and were fined £24,000.


Speaking after the case HSE inspector Laura Dempster said:

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to provide a safe system of work for their employees and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training on that system.

“If a safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life-changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”


Accidents at Work – How long do I have to claim

For Employer Liability cases, legal proceedings must be commenced within 3 years from the date of your accident.

Failure to do this may result in your claim being time-barred and you may not be able to make a compensation claim.

If a loved one has deceased, the time limit for bringing a claim is 3 years from the date of death.


Accident at Work – Who can make a claim?

Whether you are an employee, agency worker or contractor you may be able to claim for an accident at work.

In many industries, companies tend to hire contractors and self-employed workers to carry out work on projects. It is a misconception that self-employed workers are always responsible for their own workplace health and safety.

Whilst it is true that they would usually have to take out their own insurance to cover certain aspects, in some circumstances they can claim if they are injured due to the actions of an employed person.

Depending on the relationship between the company and the contractor, a self-employed contractor may be able to establish that the accident and subsequent injury was caused by another person or company.

This is largely because the self-employed person will usually have no control over the health and safety and/or risk assessments for the site they are working on.


What compensation can I claim?

Each Employers’ Liability case is assessed individually and is dependent on supportive medical evidence. You can claim for:

  • General Damages – Made for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenities of life that are evidentially linked to the accident at work directly. The pain and suffering element of the award compensates for all past, present, and future physical and psychiatric symptoms.

Loss of amenity means the inability to complete activities, either temporarily or permanently, after an accident, which could be undertaken before. This is an award designed to compensate you for the actual injuries suffered, and the effect those have had on your quality of life.

  • Special Damages – Compensates for any financial losses or out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the accident at work. This would include (but is not limited to) loss of earnings, medication or prescription charges, travel to appointments or any cost of care for the extra care you have needed from family or care providers.

If you are unable to do tasks like gardening, or walking the dog, and have to pay for these services as a consequence of your accident and subsequent injuries, these can also be claimed for.

This can also include any future loss claim and if you are unable to return to the same job as a result of the accident at work, you can claim for a lump sum based on your wages known as the Smith v Manchester award.

This is where it can be proved that as a result of your injuries, there is a risk you would find it more difficult to obtain similar employment.

However, an injured person has a duty to take reasonable steps to minimise their losses/expenses. This is called mitigation of losses, and a Court will assess whether or not the loss was reasonably incurred, before making an award.


How much compensation will I get?

The amount of compensation you can claim depends on the severity of your injuries and the effect it has had on your life. If symptoms are ongoing and are supported by medical evidence, this would increase the value of your claim.

The Judicial College Guidelines set out financial brackets for common types of injuries, as will be referenced to estimate the value of the claim.

The guidelines are broken down into the affected body parts and the type and severity of the injury.

They were introduced as it was recognised that whilst no two cases are ever precisely the same, justice was required to develop consistency between awards.

Precedent case law is also relied on to support the valuation and consideration must also be given to whether you have had a pre-existing disability or whether the injury accelerated a pre-existing condition.

Even where the older injury may not be symptomatic at the time of the accident, it is something that will have to be considered and would affect the value of your claim.


How long does an accident at work claim take?

Each case is different and whether an insurance company agrees to deal with a case depends on several factors. It is therefore very difficult to advise on the length of time a case may take as it may be that it is not clear who is responsible for your accident.

Your solicitor will advise you if there are issues that arise which means the duration of your case will be affected. It will depend on various matters, such as:

  • Level of your injury
  • Ongoing treatment
  • Whether your employers admit fault
  • Whether proceedings would need to be issued to secure compensation
  • Speed of communication between parties
  • Issues with your medical records/reports

Employer Liability – What are the laws?

There are several laws and regulations employers must follow to ensure their workers are kept safe.

Employers have a duty of care to protect workers from harm, by ensuring that risk assessments are carried out, the correct training is given and protective equipment is provided.

Some of the regulations include the following:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992.
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989


I have suffered an accident at work – What should I do?

If you have suffered an accident at work, get in touch with Oakwood Scotland Solicitors today for advice on how we can progress your claim. We can advise you on what evidence we need you to provide for us to claim compensation on your behalf.


Further reading

For more information about accidents at work, check out our resource.



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