A FIRM has been given a £165,000 fine after an accident cause by gross breaches of health safety left a worker blinded in one eye for life.

Viridor Enviroscot Limited, of Langmuir Way, Bargeddie, Lanarkshire, who were represented at Airdrie Sheriff Court this week by two of the firm's four directors, pled guilty to a series of breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which left 20-year-old worker Declan Shipcott, of Braehead, Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, blinded in his left eye for life.

It was revealed that the company had a previous conviction for a similar offence and was fined £100,000 eight years earlier in 2006, after two of their workers were injured in an incident in 2004, also because of lack of health and safety measures, though on different machinery.

The court heard that Viridor, between January 1, 2009 and September 24, 2012, at their Materials Recycling facility in Bargeddie, failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their 202 employees, and in particular Mr Shipcott.

Prosecutor Louise Beattie said: "They failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees to which they were exposed while at work and engaged in the operation of a wire tie machine situated in the Bunker area. In particular, they failed to identify the risks to which they were exposed when working with high tensile wire, and on the occasions when they were required to cut the wire using wire cutters provided by the company."

Ms Beattie also told the court how Viridor also failed to provide and maintain plant and a system of work for their employees engaged in the operation of cutting the high tensile wire.

The fiscal went on: "Viridor failed to distribute and enforce the wearing and adequate personal protective equipment, in particular safety glasses or visors to employees engaged in such operation."

The court heard how Mr Shipcott, while cutting a "tangle of wire" in the tie machine, was struck in the eye by a length of high tensile wire causing him severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment. The incident happened on September 24, 2012.

Prosecutor Louise Beattie said: "It happened at 1.30am when Mr Shipcott went to the Bunker. He tried unsuccessfully for 30 minutes to untangle the wire and when he opened the box it was still knotted. As a last resort wire cutters were used to cut the wire. He was not wearing any eye protection and was struck in the eye.

"He was taken to the Accident and Emergency Department at Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, and transferred to Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride to undergo emergency surgery. He was discharged from hospital on October 1. He attended Gartnavel Eye Clinic in Glasgow, where he underwent further surgery. He suffered a detached retina, which was not able to be repaired. He was left with significant pain and requires to take eye drops daily, and blinded in his left eye for life."

The sheriff was given a victim impact statement, confirming Mr Shipcott, who returned to work in October 2013, was left suffering from "adjustment disorder" with his social life curtailed.

The court also heard that Viridor's Premises Manager, who had been in charge at the time of the incident, had since "left the company"

Ms Beattie added: "Protective glasses were available on site, but there was no risk assessment that required them to be used. Had they been used it would have prevented this tragic accident. The company exposed all of their employees to this danger over a three and a half year period, from when the machine was installed."

Viridor lawyer, Bruce Goodbrand, told the court the firm employ 202 workers in their 10 depots in Scotland, 150 of them at Bargeddie. They are also the main sub-contractors for North Lanarkshire Council's waste recycling.

Mr Goodbrand added: "It is accepted the company fell short of the required standard."

Sheriff Robert H. Dickson fined Viridor £165,000, which was reduced from £250,000 because of the firm's early plea, saving Mr Shipcott the trauma of having to give evidence in front of a jury.

Sheriff Dickson ordered the firm to pay the fine within 28 days or an arrestment order would be made and if not paid then within 14 days the company would be sold to pay the fine.

It is likely that a civil action will now be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh by Mr Shipcott against Viridor.