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Firm in court after two workers suffer devastating injuries within a week

Date:
27 September 2013

A Hampshire-based firm has been sentenced for serious safety failings following two incidents in less than a week which left two employees with life-changing disabling injuries.

At Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday (26 Sept) Hydro Pumps Ltd was fined £46,500 after incidents arising from work to the Tay Road Bridge, Dundee in July and August 2007, which were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and the Crown Office Health and Safety Division.

The court was told the company had been subcontracted to cut away concrete top sections of the support columns on the bridge to allow engineers to replace worn out support bearings.

On 26 July a 27 year-old employee was using a hand-held jet gun that delivered a high-pressure concentrated stream of water at a 5mm distance from the surface of the concrete. He suddenly slipped and fell losing his grip on the gun. He toppled forward as he had been balancing himself against the force generated by the gun and the water jet penetrated into his abdomen.

Due to his severe injuries he has been unable to return to work since.

The work was suspended pending an internal investigation. However, within ten minutes of it resuming on 1 August a second employee, who had been brought in to replace the first, was himself seriously injured when the same gun came apart in his hands and he lost control of it, resulting in the water jet shooting into his knee.

He was taken to hospital with severe leg injuries but despite two operations to try and save his leg, it needed to be amputated.

Hydro Pumps Ltd, of Highmead, Fareham, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees; in particular failing to ensure that they were not exposed to injury from the use of a high pressure water jetting gun. Hydro Pumps failed to conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in relation to the work (particularly as they had modified the gun by shortening its lance to a length less than recommended by the manufacturers and industry guidance and employees were operating the gun at almost twice the force recommended by industry guidance). In addition, the company failed to provide a safe system of work, failed to provide and maintain safe equipment, and failed to supervise the use of appropriate protective equipment.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Gerry McCulloch, said:

"These tragic and almost identical incidents could easily have been avoided had Hydro Pumps Ltd identified the risks associated with this kind of work and implemented appropriate risk-reduction measures.

"The first incident should have been a clear wake-up call that the water jetting was unsafe but little changed and it was only ten minutes after Hydro Pumps Ltd had restarted the job that the second man was injured.

"Two workers suffered severe and life-changing injuries, the effects of which are still felt today and will be for the foreseeable future."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation. Its Health and Safety Division was officially launched by the Solicitor General in July 2009.
  3. The Division deals with all health and safety prosecutions and any Fatal Accident Inquiries requiring specialist health and safety input. Some work-related Fatal Accident Inquiries are dealt with by local Procurator Fiscal Offices, with support from the Division as required.
  4. Section 2 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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