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Excavator lift & shift went pear shaped

27 Jun 12 A Suffolk haulage operator has been prosecuted after one of its workers suffered a fractured skull as he tried to recover an abandoned excavator.

The old excavator that Mr Collins was trying to move
The old excavator that Mr Collins was trying to move

Experienced fitter Paul Collins, 51, had worked for Tannington Transport for only three months when he was struck on the head by a heavy-duty vehicle jack when it 'popped' out of position.

The incident on 8 September last year triggered an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution against the company for a serious safety breach.

Ipswich Magistrates' Court heard yesterday (26 June) that Mr Collins, of Walsham-le-Willows, Bury St Edmonds, was one of a team of three employees ordered by the firm to recover an old 17-tonne excavator that had been lying for years in a hedgerow in Chelmondiston.

The three workers located the excavator in fields near Grove Lane but realised it would be impossible to tow with the telehandler that they had taken with them. Most of machine's tyres were flat and sunken into the ground, wedging it firmly in place. The men decided to raise it using bottle jacks and to then place metal sheets under the wheels to make it easier to tow.

It was during the lifting operation that one of the jacks popped out under considerable force, hitting Mr Collins on the side of the head. He was taken to hospital and later diagnosed with a fractured skull. He has since made a good recovery and was able to return to work 10 weeks after the incident.

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The HSE found that Tannington Transport, which operates across East Anglia, had failed to consider the potential risks or provide a plan to help get the job done safely.

Tannington Transport Ltd, registered at Rendham Road, Saxmundham, and operating from Tannington in Woodbridge, Suffolk, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £3,291 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Anthony Brookes said: "This incident could so easily have been prevented if the company had chosen to act on its duty of care toward the recovery team as it set off to carry out a non-routine and very hazardous task.

"Employers have a responsibility to provide systems of work that are, as far as practicable, safe and without risk to health. Tannington Transport clearly failed in this regard and as a result Mr Collins was very seriously injured and could have been killed."

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