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Makeshift access platform led to serious injury

29 Oct 12 A makeshift access platform of a wire basket balanced on the forks of a lift truck left a maintenance worker so injured that he is still on crutches a year after using it.

The wire basket that was used as a work platform
The wire basket that was used as a work platform

The 34-year-old from Colchester, who does not wish to be named, was replacing a light fitting from a cobbled-together aerial work platform derived from a metal cage mounted on a wooden pallet. He had been lifted up by a reach truck, but as he started working the cage toppled sideways off the vehicle's forks and he was thrown seven metres to the ground below. He suffered multiple fractures to his skull, leg, back and wrist.

After the incident on 16 November 2011 at Adhere Industrial Tapes Ltd in Colchester the injured contractor required surgery and spent 10 days in hospital. Nearly a year later, he remains on crutches and is still undergoing physiotherapy. He may never be able to work again.

Colchester Magistrates' Court heard on Friday that Adhere had failed to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company after an investigation found that the work platform used to lift the contractor lacked essential safeguards, including restraint harnesses, any means to secure the cage to the forks of the truck and a back guard to prevent entanglement in the truck's lifting gear. None of the company's drivers have been trained in lifting persons.

The court was told the company had no risk assessment or safe working procedure in place for this operation, and no procedures in place for the management of contractors.

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Adhere Industrial Tapes Ltd, of Unit 1, Whitehall Industrial Estate, Whitehall Road, Colchester, Essex, was fined £12,000 and £4,806 costs after pleading guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 4(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the case, HSE inspector Paul Grover said: "This incident resulted from the use of substandard and wholly inappropriate work equipment to perform a dangerous work operation, which was undertaken by untrained workers who lacked any supervision or instructions regarding a safe system of work.

"Working arrangements fell well below the required legal standards and these breaches of statutory provisions resulted in serious injuries of a potentially life-changing nature. Given the height the contractor fell from, the incident clearly had the potential to have fatal consequences.

"If appropriate work equipment had been used, together with a proper risk assessment, safe working procedures, training, information and supervision, the incident would have been entirely preventable."

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