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Tue November 24 2020

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Removal of end-stops caused crane fatality

27 Nov 13 The death of an electrician who was crushed by an overhead crane at a Preston factory was caused by the removal of end-stops, a court has heard.

The crane that crushed Liam O’Neill
The crane that crushed Liam O’Neill

The factory owner Assystem UK Ltd, part of a French engineering group, was yesterday fined £160,000 plus £52,500 costs for safety failings.

Liam O’Neill had been trying to replace a control cable when the incident happened on 12 March 2011. The 51-year-old, from Didsbury, Greater Manchester, died in hospital seven days later.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr O’Neill had been able to work on a platform in the path of the overhead crane without the power to the crane first being switched off.

Preston Crown Court heard that the platform, which was around four metres above the ground, had been installed for a specific project in September 2000. End-stops had previously been fitted to the rails used by the overhead crane that stopped the crane reaching the platform, but these had later been removed.

The platform had remained at the factory but there was no barrier at the bottom of the access ladder to prevent workers climbing up it while the crane was in use.

On the day of the incident, Mr O’Neill had been trying to replace a cable hanging from the crane to a handheld control, after it had developed an intermittent fault.

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The crane had been moved over the platform so that Mr O’Neill could reach the top of the cable where it connects to a junction box on the crane. As he climbed onto the platform, the crane moved and he was crushed between the guard rails around the top of the ladder and the crane itself.

The HSE investigation found the crane cleared the top of the guard rails around the ladder and platform by just 85mm. Despite this, the company had not identified the risk of workers being crushed by the crane if they used the platform so no action had been taken to stop this from happening.

Assystem UK Ltd, of Club Street in Bamber Bridge, was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £52,500 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: “Liam tragically lost his life because his employer didn’t think about the potential consequences of having a working platform in the path of an overhead crane. Assystem should never have allowed the end-stops to be removed from the crane’s rails when it was still possible for workers to climb up the ladder onto the platform.

“It would have been simple to put a system in place to make sure power to the crane was switched off before anyone climbed onto the platform, or to put up a barrier to prevent access to the platform.”

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