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Companies prosecuted for safety failings after worker crushed

Date:
4 November 2014

Two Derbyshire companies have been fined for safety failings after a worker was crushed whilst dismantling steelwork.

Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (3 November) that the 47-year-old man from Chesterfield was employed to dismantle surplus steelwork and associated fittings for MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd at premises in Cotes Park Lane, Somercotes, when the incident happened on 3 May 2011.

He was employed by Instant Installations Ltd, which had been contracted to supply labour for the dismantling work for MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd’s newly-acquired building, next to its existing Somercotes factory.

He and other colleagues were using a scissor lift type of mobile elevating work platform and other equipment to remove surplus steelwork including some of the steel beams on which the overhead travelling cranes ran.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found both companies failed to plan the dismantling work and to record the arrangements for carrying out the work.

MMD Mining Machinery Developments had failed to notify HSE of the construction project, only doing so six weeks after the incident. In order to gain access to the steelwork to remove bolts, Instant Installations Ltd used a scissor lift that had been leased by MMD Mining Machinery Developments.

However, the scissor lift was also used to lower steel beams at height by resting them on the guard rails of the platform. The scissor lift was not designed for such work and an appropriate lifting device or crane should have been used.

Having removed single section beams (each typically weighing 430kg) using the scissor lift, the injured person and a colleague worked from the scissor lift and attempted to remove a compound crane beam. This was longer and heavier, weighing in excess of a tonne, which was more than twice the scissor lift’s safe working load.

After removing bolts keeping the beam in place using a cherry picker, the injured person raised the scissor lift underneath the compound beam without the stabiliser legs deployed.

When the guard rail rested up against the beam, the lift’s alarm sounded, informing the workers the lift was overloaded. Repeated attempts to place the handrail of the platform against the underside of the unfastened compound beam led to the beam becoming unstable and it toppled towards the factory floor.

The compound beam had been positioned centrally on the scissor lift, and the injured person was operating the platform controls from a position between the compound beam and the handrailing.

As the beam toppled towards the factory floor, the injured person was struck by the falling compound beam, causing him serious head and chest crush injuries. He remains off work.

The compound beam falling to the ground also caused the elevated platform to sway significantly, leaving the co-worker fearful of being thrown from the lift platform.

MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd was fined £ 26,666 and ordered to pay £8,013 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 21, 29(1) and 29(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Instant Installations Ltd, of Station Lane, New Whittington, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,013 after admitting breaching regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and regulations 29(1) and 29(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Grayam Barnes said:

“This incident, which saw completely inadequate equipment being used to remove heavy steel beams at height, could easily have resulted in a fatality.

“It is the duty of employers to ensure that the correct work equipment is provided to carry out the work they have been tasked with.

“The failure of MMD Ltd in not notifying this work as a construction project also precluded them the opportunity to seek competent advice for the construction work.

“The failure to make the statutory notification meant they then carried the statutory duties of the ‘client’, ‘CDM co-ordinator’ and ‘principal contractor’.

“This incident demonstrates they were not competent to undertake those roles.

“Had they sourced and properly made such appointments then it is unlikely this incident would have occurred.

“This work was not properly planned out by either company and that lack of planning has led to a worker suffering very serious injuries which he is still recovering from more than three years later.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Regulation 21(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) regulations 2007states: “The CDM co-ordinator shall as soon as is practicable after his appointment ensure that notice is given to the Executive containing such of the particulars specified in Schedule 1 as are available.”
  2. Regulation 29(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) regulations 2007 states: “The demolition or dismantling of a structure, or part of a structure, shall be planned and carried out in such a manner as to prevent danger or, where it is not practicable to prevent it, to reduce danger to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.
  3. Regulation 29(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) regulations 2007 states: “The arrangements for carrying out such demolition or dismantling shall be recorded in writing before the demolition or dismantling work begins.”
  4. Regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is used only for operations for which, and under conditions for which, it is suitable.”

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