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MAJOR PLANT HIRE COMPANY PROSECUTED

Heavy fine imposed after fatal fall from stacked site accomodation units

 

A plant hire company has been fined £200,000 after an employee fell 5m to his death whilst preparing construction site accommodation units at the company depot in Kent.

The HSE investigation showed that the company failed to follow its own health and safety guidelines for work at height.

Workman fell 5m whilst attaching lifting tackle

On 13th April 2010 Ashtead Plant Hire Co Ltd trading as APlant admitted breaching HSW Act Section 2(1). The company was fined £200k and ordered to pay over £15k in prosecution costs at Maidstone Crown Court.

Phillip Pearce, aged 55, worked as a fitter at the company depot in Maidstone. The depot was a base from which portable accommodation units are provided to the construction industry.

The job of Mr Pearce was to prepare the accommodation units, including site huts, welfare units and storage containers, which were then hired out to construction companies.

Two units were stacked on top of each other and Mr Pearce climbed the stack to help attach lifting chains so that the top unit could be lifted down. He fell more than 5ms and died at the scene.

Company failed to implement their procedure to protect workers

Ashtead Plant Hire Co Ltd had a written procedure for work on top of accommodation units in its depots and at customers’ sites. The procedure required workers to wear a safety harness and inertia reel line and climb a secured ladder. If they slipped or fell, the line would lock and prevent a serious fall.

HSE investigation found that workers at the depot had not been issued with this kit or been trained to use it and most did not know the company had a special procedure for doing this work.

There were some 15 accommodation unit movements a day yet management at the depot did not secure awareness of the procedure and that the work was carried out by trained, equipped and authorised persons.

“Health and safety is not just about filling in forms and thinking about risk”

HSE Inspector John Underwood said: “This was a wholly avoidable incident which led to a tragic and totally unnecessary loss of life.

“It is completely inexcusable that the company had indentified the risks, prepared an adequate procedure to manage the risk, and then failed to implement that procedure to protect their workers.

“Health and safety is not just about filling in forms or thinking about risk, it’s about taking action to prevent people being killed or injured while trying to do their job.

“I hope this case will be an example to other companies that not only must health and safety be taken seriously but also followed through.”

Comment

Failure to follow through risk assessments and specified precautions with practical implementation will depressingly familiar to many.

On construction sites the CDM 2007 contractors must “Plan, Manage and Monitor” health and safety of the workforce. This simple mantra should be repeated as often as possible throughout all organisations.

We are not aware of any published standard for attaching lifting tackle to such accomodation units. However, solutions have been used involving (a) carrying out the work from the ground using purpose design tackle and aids or (b) temporary edge protection /cages.

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