CLACKMANNANSHIRE Council has been fined £8,000 after an employee lost three toes due to a lack of health and safety precautions taken by the local authority.

The man, who worked in the road services division, suffered the horrendous injuries on June 17, 2015, when his foot slipped into a machine on the back of a tipper truck, causing two toes to be ripped off while a third was amputated later.

Council lawyers tendered a plea of guilty at the first opportunity on Monday afternoon to an offence which contravened the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The charge states that the council failed to ensure the safety and welfare of its employees.

The council worker, who was trained in many aspects of road services, had worked for the council for 24 years at the time of the incident and was working in a team of five men on the day in question.

Specialist prosecutor, Laura Buchan, told Alloa Sheriff Court on Monday that the incident took place at the Tillicoultry Quarry site where the victim and another man had taken a 7.5-tonne truck back after delivering material to the rest of their team in Clackmannan so they could fix some roads.

Ms Buchan said: “[He] reversed into a position so that the truck could dump waste. After tipping, most of the waste was dumped.”

The men then proceeded to climb into the back of the truck so that they could shovel out the excess waste which had not been disposed of with the initial tip.

A safety feature of the truck is a tarpaulin cover which, when removed, stops the auger plate that breaks up large chunks of hard rock from working.

However, a person unknown had taped a two pence piece over the machine’s sensor, meaning removing the tarpaulin had no such effect on the auger.

The victim’s foot then slipped while inside the back of the truck, which left his foot "propelling down and into the auger drive" and is boot became trapped in the machine.

The man’s co-worker then tried to turn the machine off and drove him to Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Ms Buchan continued: “Two toes had been ripped off and a third was amputated. The flesh had been completely ripped off the third toe.

“He required skin grafts and was in hospital for two weeks.”

The employee required out-patient hospital treatment for almost two years after the incident, during which time he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Ms Buchan told the court that three other vehicles were subsequently found to have the same override using the two pence piece and that staff had never been given manuals for the vehicles they were using.

She also confirmed that low level management knew of the risks staff were taking by using the override.

The court also heard that the council had, astonishingly, turned down training offered by the vehicle’s manufacturers when they were purchased.

Susan Duff QC, defending the local authority, said: “The council takes what happened very seriously.

"In attendance [in court] are three very senior council officials: the legal and democracy manager, the health and safety officer and the head of resourcing.”

Mrs Duff confirmed that the victim is still a council employee, albeit in a different role on the same salary and conditions.

She continued: “The men had worked with the vehicle for 10 years and ignored warning signs which were in the vehicle.

“It is apparent that unsafe practices were known to supervisors, but no higher management knew about them.

"In our investigations, only one employee admitted knowledge of the override, although we were never able to find out who originally put it in place.”

Council officers also alerted other local authorities to alert them to the unsafe practice so that they could check their own trucks.

The local authority also took steps to rectify the situation by providing full training within five days.

Sheriff David Mackie said that while the maximum penalty for this offence is £20,000, the case is a paradox because the fine will be paid by council tax payers.

He added that the case must be judged purely on the charge, rather than the “actions of employees and supervisors in using two pence pieces. It is not the subject of this prosecution – that would be a different prosecution completely.”

The sheriff made the decision to fine the council £8,000, discounted from £12,000 for an early plea of guilty.

After the case, depute chief executive Nikki Bridle said: "The council’s takes the Health and Safety of its workforce extremely seriously.

“Immediately after the incident we reviewed our policies and procedures to ensure that this couldn’t happen again.

“The Health and Safety Executive has acknowledged the efforts made by the Council immediately following the accident to address the circumstances and to seek to prevent a recurrence and that was acknowledged in court today by the Sheriff.

"As the court also heard, the individual involved remains a council employee."