Saturday, 10 December 2016

Cohart Asbestos Disposal fined £45,674 for leg amputation

Cohart Asbestos Disposal Ltd., an Essex-based hazardous waste disposal company was fined £45,674 (inc.costs) after a worker was crushed beneath a tracked excavator at a sorting and recycling site.
The circumstances were:
  • 7 February 2014 a company director was operating a 360o tracked excavator, which he was using to transfer waste from a main pile to an adjacent manual-sorting area at the Cohart site.
  • The excavator’s reversing alarm and beacon were not working and a mirror was missing from the side of the cab.
  • There was no camera or mirror on the rear of the vehicle.
  • The company had failed to ensure effective communications between the operator of the excavator and persons working in the yard.
  • A worker was processing wood waste .
  • He moved behind the excavator to pick up an old door and place it in a skip. 
  • As he did so, the operator reversed the excavator, crushing the worker beneath one of the tracks. 
  • He sustained serious crush injuries to his right leg which later required amputation in hospital.
  • A visibility assessment on the excavator also revealed that the operator would have been affected by a ‘blind spot’ of up to eight metres directly behind the vehicle.  

The HSE Inspector said:
“Potentially fatal risks arise from operating heavy plant on waste sites, particularly if, as in this case, the vehicle operator’s visibility is restricted. This worker suffered life-changing injuries after the company failed to put in place effective measures to protect pedestrian workers from its heavy plant operations. Every year many people are killed or seriously injured in incidents involving workplace transport, and there is no excuse for employers to neglect this risk. Pedestrians, whether employees or others, should be kept separate from workplace vehicle movements by using physical barriers or safe systems of work that are clear and well supervised.

Volvo fined £900,000 after fall from fault step ladder

Volvo was fined £905,900 (inc.costs) after one of their workers fell and suffered head injuries.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred at their national truck, bus and plant division.
  • On 17 September 2015 a worker was servicing a large delivery truck.
  • A step ladder that he was using was damaged and its anti-slip feet were worn.
  • It was not Volvo property and had not been maintained or checked to ensure it was suitable for use.
  • Volvo UK had not trained their staff to select, inspect and use access equipment for work at height.
  • He was repairing the driver’s access rope for the cab when he fell, striking his head and losing consciousness.
  • He was placed in a medically induced coma for two-weeks. 
  • He still suffers from ongoing complications and has been unable to return to work.

The HSE inspector said,
“This worker suffered life changing injuries that could have been prevented by simple health and safety precautions. For two weeks his family was told to prepare for the worst as he was placed in an induced coma to help manage the swelling on his brain. This case is not about banning ladders, on many occasions they are the right equipment to use when working at height, it is about companies ensuring they properly maintain their work at height equipment and train their workers on how to inspect them and select the correct tools for the job. As this case shows, even a fall from a relatively small height can have devastating consequences.”

Health and Safety Offences Guidelines bite. An explanation of how they work.

By a perverse coincidence, two cases for identical events at the same company (Burger King) enable us to compare the fines imposed after 12th March 2015 when the Health and Safety Offences Guidelines came into effect.
Both fines were for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 

  • That imposed before 12 March 2015 was £13,300.
  • That imposed after 12 March 2015 was £153,360.
I think that the fact that the second case was a repeat of the first would have increased the fine because Burger King had not learnt the lessons, but the new level of fines means that companies must be aware of what could potentially hit them. 

Hence the link below to our 2015 blog explaining how the Health and Safety Offences Guidelines work.

See our blog explaining the Sentencing Guidelines