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RELIANCE ON ‘CUSTOM AND PRACTICE’ ENDS IN COURT

Collapse of refrigeration unit triggered fall of workman from tower scaffold

Spark’s Mechanical Services Ltd has been fined £10,000 after a workman was seriously injured when he fell 2.6 metres from a scaffolding tower at a fish processing factory in Fraserburgh.

He was removing ceiling mounted refrigeration units from the coldstore which were attached by eight bolts. Four bolts were removed and Mr Howie continued to work on the unit when at least one of the four remaining bolts fractured.

The unit fell and struck the scaffold tower and Mr Howie fell causing a collapsed lung and fractured ribs. He was unable to return to normal work duties for five months.

System of work based “custom and practice” not safety

HSE investigators the company failed to ensure that suitable equipment was in place to support the refrigeration unit while it was being removed. In addition, the top guard rails were missing from the working side of the platform. Spark’s Mechanical Services Limited, of Aberdeen, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £10,000.

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After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Radcliffe said:

“The company’s method of carrying out this type of work appeared to have evolved from custom and practice devised by employees rather than what was actually safe.

A safe system of work might have included the use of a forklift truck as a support, but it needed to have been underneath the panel before any bolts were removed. It is also crucial that guardrails are always in place around the working platforms of scaffolds to avoid potential falls, often with catastrophic consequences.”

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