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Banksman lost finger in lifting accident

10 Nov 11 A modular building company has been fined £15,000 after a worker was left with permanent injuries when a lifting operation went wrong.

Banksman John Hughes, of Newark, was working in an outdoor yard of Caledonian Building Systems Ltd at Carlton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, on 20 February 2009.

He was helping a fork lift truck driver to raise an 11t modular building unit off some blocks and a wheeled axle, on to a lorry, but the unstable load started to rock. Mr Hughes put his right hand on to the wooden block, to move it out of the way, but one end of the unit came down on his fingers.

His index finger was crushed and had to be amputated at the knuckle, but 18 months later still gave him problems and was completely removed. His middle finger was also damaged. Mr Hughes was off work for 12 weeks before returning to work.

A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the lifting operation was disorganised and the employees involved were not provided with clear information or instructions. It was unclear who was supposed to participate in the operation, what their role was, which equipment would be used and whether the unit would be moved elsewhere or simply lifted vertically.

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Caledonian Building Systems Ltd, of Glendale Gryfe Road, Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Nottingham Magistrates fined the firm £15,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £7,328.

After the hearing HSE inspector Stuart Parry said: "This was a routine lifting operation for Caledonian Building Systems Ltd yet it was poorly assessed and planned and was conducted in a disorganised manner. Although Mr Hughes received a life-changing injury, the consequences could have been even worse. The risks associated with routine lifting operations should have been assessed and a simple plan devised and followed to eliminate or adequately control the risks.

"Companies moving large loads with lift trucks should remember these basic legal requirements to ensure they protect their employees and anyone else who may be affected by their work."

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