02 December, 2020
Each month we review the HSE prosecutions to bring to you cases of interest that might be of relevance to your workplaces. This article focuses on the need for proper planning of work. We also have another focus in this month's cases around adequate training.
A construction company was fined after an employee was struck by the placing boom of a concrete pump, causing serious injuries.
Concrete footings were being poured at a site and due to the soft ground, vehicles could not get close to the work, so a concrete pump with a 52-metre boom was used.
During the pour, the ground beneath one of the pump outriggers collapsed, causing the concrete pipe and boom to strike the employee, dislocating and fracturing his hip, fracturing his spine and tearing ligaments and muscles. He was also later diagnosed with a brain injury. He is still undergoing regular physiotherapy, and suffering from post-traumatic stress, but does not know the long-term effects of the brain and nerve damage.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, it was found that the work had not been properly planned, managed or monitored. Although some work had been done to stabilise the ground in the area where the pump was set up, no checks had been made as to the load that the ground could sustain, and no consideration had been given to the size or type of spreader plates that would be required to support the vehicle outriggers.
Axio (Special Works) Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13 (1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and were fined £20,000, plus a victim surcharge of £170 and costs of £5,285.70.
Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Stephen Green said "The employees injuries are life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safeguards had been put in place."
A company and an individual were fined after a worker suffered life changing injuries while dismantling an external platform lift.
A worker was injured whist working on an external lift shaft at Alton College. A heavy component of the lift toppled to the ground and he fell with it, suffering serious life changing injuries that resulted in him being paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that The Platform Lift Company was contracted to dismantle an external lift shaft to enable building works to provide ramped access for wheelchair users. The work was sub-contracted to premier lift solutions of which Davey Marcus was a director at the time. The companies failed to ensure dismantling of an external platform lift was undertaken without risks of persons falling or structural collapse.
The Platform Lift Company, pleaded guilty to breaching a single charge of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,104.50.
The director pleaded guilty to two charges of Regulations 20(1) and 20(2) of Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and was fined £480 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Dominic Goacher said: "Neither party adequately planned the work and failed to identify suitable control measures such as scaffold to prevent falls.
"If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented."
Solar panel company, Blue Sun Energy Limited was sentenced for safety breaches after a self-employed labourer fell through a rooflight.
He was working on behalf of and under the control of Blue Sun Energy Ltd when he fell approximately 3.5 metres through an unmarked and unguarded fragile surface (rooflight) into the shed below.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the worker was undertaking snagging work relating to the installation of solar panels on the roof of a cowshed at Home Farm, Gargrave, Skipton. He stepped onto one of the roof lights and fell through it. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured shoulder and severe bruising. He has yet to return to work.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £38,019 and ordered to pay £1,071 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Ben Caines said: "Falls from height often result in life-changing or fatal injuries. In most cases, these incidents are needless and could be prevented by properly planning the work to ensure that effective preventative and protective measures are in place such as edge protection or coverings built to the correct standard.
"This incident could have easily been prevented if the company had installed adequate edge protection or covered the opening to prevent falls."
Contractors are responsible for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others who might be affected by their work activities. The Construction Design Management Regulations 2015 (CDM) imposes a framework for the management of construction projects and requires that construction works should be planning and co-ordination of the work. Hazards should be identified at the planning phase so that everyone is kept safe during works. There should also be suitable monitoring and management of the works especially if there are more than one contractor involved in the works.
Falls from heights continues to be one of the main causes of fatalities in the workplace and will always be subject to HSE scrutiny and enforcement should an organisation not have in place a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
Whilst the fines in these cases are not substantial given the seriousness of the breaches, this probably reflects the size of the organisation as sentencing guidelines and starting point for financial fines are based on an organisations and individuals gross annual turnover.