HSE fines negligent construction firms

Two companies have been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after workers sustained serious injuries in avoidable accidents. The HSE found that the incidents could have been prevented, had the companies followed the correct safety procedures and adhered to regulations.

Leg injury on construction site

In the first incident, a work-related leg injury, occurred on a construction site in South London. A worker sustained a badly broken left leg and fractures to his right ankle when he was struck by an empty concrete skip (weighing around 215kg). Several of his ribs were also broken in the accident and he was unable to work for 17 months.

The skip had become detached from an excavator because the shackle holding the skip was defective and this had not been noted.

The Court heard that another operative on the site, a self-employed construction worker, had not fully screwed in the pin on the shackle, in a practice known as “backing off” where the pin is slackened by a quarter turn. This meant that the pin became loose causing the shackle to fail. The worker pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1) (c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £2,000.

These regulations state that every employer must ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is carried out in a safe manner.

The regulations also state that every employer must ensure that before lifting equipment is put into use for the first time by him it is thoroughly examined for any defect unless it has not been used before.

As there was no thorough examination certificate for the shackle on the excavator, the site manager was guilty of breaching Regulation 9(1)( a) of LOLER. He was fined £1,000, and ordered to pay costs of £2,500

A spokesman for the HSE said, "This case highlights the importance of ensuring simple checks are carried out properly and that equipment is used correctly. Lifting accessories are not complex items but if they are not used properly or are not thoroughly examined periodically then the consequences can be serious."

"The law is clear that lifting accessories must not be used unless they have been thoroughly examined in the previous six months and that there is a report available to prove that."

Head injury caused by concrete mixer lid

In the second incident an employee at a concrete company in Derbyshire sustained a broken jaw when the lid of a concrete mixer fell on his head as he was preparing to clean the mixer.

At that time (in this company) it was usual practice for workers to lie inside the mixer in order to clean the discharge chute door. This process involved lifting the mixer lid with a wire rope, then inserting a steel prop into the lid to hold it open.

On this day the wire rope snapped as the lid was being winched and the lid fell onto the worker, crushing his head between the lid and the mixer.

When the HSE investigated the accident it found that the neither the winch nor the wire rope had been inspected; nor had an adequate risk assessment been carried out.

The concrete company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states that it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

It was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay costs of £24,248

An HSE spokesman said that the accident was entirely preventable had the company maintained the wire rope and carried out proper risk assessments. 

Since the accident an alternative method of cleaning the mixer has been introduced.