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Plant hire company fined after excavator crushed worker

25 September 2013

A Nottingham plant hire company has been fined after a worker was crushed by a two-and-half tonne excavator during an unsafe cleaning operation.

The 40-year-old from Mansfield, who does not want to be named, suffered four fractures to his pelvis, dislocated his thumb and sustained soft tissue damage to his left hand and both legs in the incident at L&M Glazing Ltd in Bulwell on 3 July 2012.

L&M Glazing was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious safety failings with the chosen method of work.

Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday (23 September) that the injured worker was cleaning an excavator that had been returned covered in dirt. The work needed to be done quickly because the vehicle was due to be hired out again later the same day.

The excavator was positioned over a wash bay and raised off the ground by its hydraulic excavator arm and shovel blade, allowing the caterpillar tracks underneath to turn while they were sprayed with a jet washer.

Cable ties were used to lock controls in position and they were configured so that the tracks could spin while the cab was empty. As the worker was cleaning near the excavator arm his foot became trapped under the moving track.

A colleague ran to his aid and, worried that he was being dragged closer to the machine, hit two side levers in the cab in a bid to help him escape. However, this caused the vehicle to lurch forwards, which knocked him backwards before pinning and trapping him.

The worker was rescued after other colleagues used jacks to lift the vehicle.

HSE found there was no formal safe system of work for the cleaning task. The court was told it was unsafe to work either beneath or immediately adjacent to an excavator when it is supported only by the bucket on the excavator arm and the shovel blade, and that had the work been better planned and managed then the incident could have been avoided.

L&M Glazing Ltd of Hucknall Lane, Bulwell, Nottingham, was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay £6,400 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Butter said:

"The injured employee was put in serious danger and could have been killed because there was no safe method for cleaning the excavator.

"The machine manufacturer recommends jack-stands are used to hold it in place, and not to service or adjust the machine while the engine is running.

That guidance was clearly ignored, and to have the engine running was both dangerous and unnecessary. Simply cleaning the tracks while the vehicle is stationary, then moving it to expose the unclean tracks and stopping it, before continuing to clean it, would have be the safest and simplest way of doing the work.

"L&M Glazing failed to manage the risks to its employees. Employers who neglect their duty to protect workers will continue to be held to account where they fail to do so."

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Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

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