A COMPANY has been fined more than £2 million after being found guilty of health and safety failings which led to the death of an employee.

Chipboard manufacturer Norbord Europe Limited had previously been found guilty of two charges relating to the death of George Laird, 64, at its site in Cowie, near Stirling.

Assistant procurator fiscal Debbie Carroll said after sentencing on Thursday that Laird’s death “could have been prevented had suitable and sufficient measures been put in place”.

A trial at Perth Sheriff Court heard that on Wednesday July 13, 2016, Laird and three colleagues had been carrying out maintenance work on a wood drier at the plant.

A high-pressure hose was being used to remove ash from a gas duct above a combustion chamber, and Laird – who was in the area below the chamber – was consumed by hot water, steam and ash.

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He sustained burns to over 90% of his body and died the next day.

During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence showing Norbord had failed to provide a safe system of work for employees removing hot ash.

Employees were left to create their own methods of working and as a result were exposed to a risk of personal injury from falling ash.

Carroll, head of the health and safety investigation unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “This was a lengthy and complex case. The detailed evidence led against Norbord Europe Limited over the four-week trial allowed the jury to come to a unanimous verdict.

“The tragic death of George Laird could have been prevented had suitable and sufficient measures been put in place.

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“The prosecution and the sentence serve to highlight that a failure to fulfil health and safety obligations can have tragic consequences and those responsible will be held to account for their failings.

“Our thoughts are with Mr Laird’s family at this difficult time.”

Garry Miller, an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, said afterwards: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to set up safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers to carry out the safe methods of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the death of Mr Laird could have been prevented.”