Garden landscaping supplies firm Deco-Pak has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after one of its employees was crushed to death by a robotic arm.

The jury at Bradford Crown Court heard that maintenance engineer Andrew Tibbott died on Good Friday, 2017, when he was pinned to a conveyor belt after he walked through a gap in the safety fencing on an RM packaging machine.

This afternoon, company director Rodney Slater, 62, of Wellbank View, Rochdale, was cleared by the jury of Mr Tibbott’s manslaughter by gross negligence and failing to ensure that employees were not exposed to risk.

The jury has not yet reached a verdict on a second director, Michael Hall, 64, of Hullen Edge Lane, Elland, who also denies Mr Tibbott’s manslaughter by gross negligence.

The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Richard Mansell QC, sent the panel home at 4pm to resume their deliberations on Wednesday at 10.30am.

Deco-Pak and Hall pleaded guilty ahead of the trial to failing to ensure that employees at the factory in Halifax Road, Hipperholme, were not exposed to risk.

During the trial, the jury watched CCTV footage of the final moments before Mr Tibbott, 48, was fatally crushed. He was pinned by the robotic lifting arm to a conveyor 14 seconds after he walked through a gap in the safety fencing.

The footage of him entering the RM packaging machine’s robotic cell to clean or adjust a sensor was shown in court by prosecutor Allan Compton QC who accused the company of having “a scant regard” for health and safety.

The “powerful and dangerous” robotic arm swung into action while Mr Tibbott was doing the routine maintenance work.

He had been working for the company for six weeks and he was alone at the factory at the time.

Mr Compton said Deco-Pak had no interest in running the RM machine safely.

“They encouraged a culture of production at all costs, putting the lives of employees at risk,” he said.

He told the jury that the machine was still operational when Mr Tibbott entered the robotic cell. It was in automatic mode awaiting a signal. When he cleaned or adjusted a sensor it detected an empty pallet, dropped a bag and swung back to collect a new one.

Mr Compton said CCTV footage of the factory before Mr Tibbott’s death showed employees entering the robotic cell when it was “live and capable of doing what it did to Mr Tibbott.” He alleged that his training was “inadequate and not focused on safety.”

Documents recovered by the police from Deco-Pak showed that risk assessments were “paperwork exercises” rather than the basis for effective health and safety, Mr Compton said.

Hall told the police that the company took health and safety very seriously.

He stated that in a previous incident when an employee was injured, the robotic arm had only “brushed” him.

“If it had trapped him it would have killed him,” he said.

He told the police he had never seen an employee enter the cell while the robot was operational.

When he was asked: “Did you realise how dangerous the machine can be?” he replied: “Yes.”

Slater said he wasn’t familiar with the machine’s operations or functions and relied on the expertise of those who had received specialist training from RM.

Michael Hall’s son David, also a director at the firm, told the jury that Mr Tibbott’s death was an awful tragedy that the management was regretful and remorseful about.

“We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” he told the court.

He said on behalf of the company that Mr Tibbott was in no way responsible for what had happened to him. Deco-Pak had pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety Act at the first court hearing.

It accepted that it had failed to do what was reasonably practicable to protect workers on the packaging machines, including the RM machine which killed Mr Tibbott.

David Hall said the firm also accepted that the gap in the fencing round the machine and the lack of an interlock on the red gate was unacceptable.

He told the jury that Deco-Pak was started from scratch in 2004 as a family business.

He said he had never heard his father being negative about health and safety or witnessed him block spending on anything that was needed.