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Construction firm in court over worker’s multiple injuries

Date:
21 November 2014

A Glasgow-based construction company has been fined for serious safety failings after a worker was severely injured when he was crushed under nearly two tonnes of plasterboard.

Stuart McNaught, a joiner for William Fulton Building Services Ltd, was putting up plasterboards inside an extension at a house in Cochno Road East, Duntocher, when the incident happened in icy conditions on 6 January 2011.

Dumbarton Sheriff Court was told today (21 November) that his employer, William Fulton, had brought more plasterboards sheets for the job and was using a forklift truck to lift the load onto the site.

Mr Fulton drove the unsecured load of 82 plasterboard sheets, weighing 1925kg, down the road towards the extension and began to lower them into a courtyard. The court heard that the forks were iced up and the road had not been gritted.

Mr McNaught, then 36, and another employee were in the courtyard below the forklift and watched the boom extend over a demolished wall. As the workers began to guide the load from the forklift to the ground Mr McNaught, who was not wearing a hi-vis vest and could not see Mr Fulton, noticed the plasterboard move. As he tried to get out of the way, he slipped. The load fell off the forks and landed on Mr McNaught trapping him.

On hearing his screams, the other site workers tried to lift the plasterboard but as it was too heavy, Mr Fulton drove the forklift into the courtyard to lift the boards off Mr McNaught.

He was taken to hospital with a broken rib, pelvis, punctured lung and fractures to his right ankle and both legs. He returned to work after five months but continued to suffer from chronic pain and resigned a year later. However, he returned to the company in April this year.

William Fulton Building Services Ltd was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company failed to address how the plasterboard could be lifted and moved safely, particularly at the time when the site was badly affected by ice.

The court was told William Fulton had not received basic training in using a forklift truck. A trained operator would have considered the safest route and ensured that people would not be working in the area while material was being unloaded. He would also have recognised that there was ice on the forks of the truck which would make the load more likely to move.

William Fulton Building Services Ltd, of Drymen Road, Bearsden, Glasgow, was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Moira Jennings said:

“This incident was clearly foreseeable and therefore readily avoidable. Working below a forklift truck is dangerous and the company should have carried out a proper risk assessment. This would have identified the risks of moving materials around the site and to employees standing near the plasterboard while it was being unloaded from an elevated position.

“The plasterboard should have been placed flat on the ground in the yard or at the entrance rather than expecting people to collect them from an elevated position on the raised forks of the vehicle. William Fulton should have ensured he had good visual contact and communications with Mr McNaught, who should have been wearing a hi-vis vest and standing well away from the forklift as the load was lowered.

“As a result of the failures of William Fulton Building Services Ltd, Mr McNaught suffered severe injuries.”

 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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