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Halifax worker left disabled by crush injuries

Date:
14 February 2013

A West Yorkshire firm has been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was left with life-threatening injuries when a 6.5 tonnes steel beam toppled onto his back.

Mark Priestley, 34, was pinned against a skip by the beam at the Halifax factory of Elland Steel Structures Ltd on 31 January 2011.

The weight of the beam crushed his spine and torso, leaving him with irreversible spinal and nerve damage.

Mr Priestley, of Claremount, Halifax, who is married with a young son, was in hospital for five months. Although he regained some movement in his legs, he is largely confined to a wheelchair, still needs intensive therapy and is unlikely to be able to work again.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Elland Steel Structures for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Bradford Crown Court heard today (14 February) that Mr Priestley had been working with a colleague to weld pin connections to the 23m long beam. The beam had to be rotated several times so the welding could be done, which meant lifting it using chain slings.

HSE found that it was likely that one or both of the chain slings next to the beam had snagged it as it was about to be lifted in preparation for slinging. As the chain was being raised, it caught the beam which became unbalanced and toppled sideways onto Mr Priestley’s back as he attempted to get out of the way.

The court was told the company had failed to assess the risks for lifting operations so they were not properly planned or supervised. The chain slings and technique used were also unsuitable for the load.

Elland Steel Structures Ltd., which employs some 90 people at the steel fabrication factory in Gibbet Street, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 toward costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Geoff Fletcher said:

"What happened was devastating for Mr Priestley and his family. He now has a permanent disability and continues to endure significant pain.

"Elland Steel had not fulfilled its responsibilities to fully assess the risks involved with this heavy lifting and then put measures in place to mitigate those risks.

"Lifting operations need to be properly planned by a competent person and all staff need to be trained and adequately supervised. The lack of a robust system of work will inevitably mean that risk is not properly controlled and the consequences can be devastating."

The latest statistics from HSE for 2011/12 show that there were 31 deaths, more than 3,400 major injuries and some14,000 minor injuries recorded within the manufacturing industries. For advice and information go to www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.

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. www.hse.gov.uk
  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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