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ERRONEOUS USE OF LIFTING EQUIPMENT ENDS IN TRAGEDY

Young workman died after unsafe system trapped in him in block grab jaws   

J N Bentley Ltd of Skipton North Yorkshire has been fined £106,250 and ordered to pay costs of £90,000 after a 23-year-old man died from massive crush injuries. His head became trapped in the jaws of a block grab machine being wrongly used to move a pallet of cement bags.

Steven Allen was part of a team working on a local authority building project in March 2007. The movement of cement bags on a pallet was to be the last job before the weekend and the block grab was attached to an excavator to move the load.

During the task the bags of cement fell to the ground whilst the pallet remained in the jaws of the block grab. The pallet pivoted and as Steven took hold of it the pallet came away. The jaws of the block grab dropped and clamped Steven’s  head causing fatal injuries. 

HSE investigators found that the grab was being used contrary to the manufacturers instructions and was unsuitable for the job. Block grabs are designed to lift and move rectangular loads strapped together e.g. packs of bricks. The company had also failed to implement a safe system for lifting and transporting the bags of cement.

Proper planning is not a ‘tick box’ exercise

J N Bentley Ltd of Keighley Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £106,250 and ordered to pay costs of £90,000.

Steven’s mother Judith Allen said after the hearing:

“This may be the end as far as prosecutions go, but our lives are blighted forever. The only consolation will be if it stops something like this happening again, and makes workers and the public far more aware than I was before Steven died, of the risks employers take with workers’ lives in trying to save money.”

HSE Principal Inspector, Dave Redman, said:

“The firm made a fundamental error by using a block grab to lift and move pallets and this resulted in the tragic death of a young man. This use was very clearly advised against by the manufacturers and the risks should have been understood by the company.

Nevertheless, they allowed machinery to be used on their site which was totally unsuitable for the task. No assessment was made regarding the use of the grab and no instructions were given to the men who were operating it. Planning to make sure that work is carried out safely is not a formality or a tick-box exercise but is crucial to identifying and controlling risks.

It shouldn’t take a death to remind employers that failure to properly plan the work can have tragic consequences. An alternative way of lifting the pallet should have been used. Pallets are designed to be lifted using fork attachments which could have been fitted to the excavator. This would have prevented the incident which led to Steven Allen’s death. If employers take their eye off the ball, it’s all too easy for otherwise safe and routine tasks to turn into unacceptable risks.”

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One Response to “ERRONEOUS USE OF LIFTING EQUIPMENT ENDS IN TRAGEDY”

  1. HSE ENFORCEMENT WEEKLY UPDATE 4th APRIL 2012 | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] ERRONEOUS USE OF LIFTING EQUIPMENT ENDS IN TRAGEDY […]