Two Derbyshire companies were up in front of Chesterfield magistrates charged with safety offences after a botched attempt to dismantle overhead travelling cranes.
Between them they must now pay out more than £60,000 in fines and costs.
The 47-year-old man from Chesterfield was employed to take down surplus steelwork and associated fittings for MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd at premises in Cotes Park Lane, Somercotes, when the incident happened on 3rd 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.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that both companies had 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. To access the steelwork bolts, Instant Installations Ltd used a scissor lift that had been leased by MMD Mining Machinery Developments. However, it also used the scissor lift 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, two men in the scissor lift attempted to remove a longer compound crane beam. Weighing more than a tonne, this was more than twice the scissor lift’s safe working load.
After removing bolts keeping the beam in place using a boom lift, the man 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 overload alarm sounded. 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 boom lift to sway significantly, leaving the co-worker fearful of being thrown from his 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.
HSE inspector Grayam Barnes said after the hearing: “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.”