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CLIENT FAILED TO CHECK CRANE CONTRACTOR COMPLIANCE

Planned crane maintenance should not be subject to ‘blind eye’ syndrome

Drax Power Ltd and Konecranes UK Ltd have been fined after a young worker at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire was struck by a 13kg weight which fell some 4m from an overhead crane in March 2011. Konecranes UK Ltd are a permanent on-site contractor responsible for maintaining  cranes and hoists.

A mechanical fitter was operating the 21-ton crane with a colleague and needed it to change direction. The men were using a steel pole provided to ‘pull down’ on a chain which operated the steering mechanism. In doing so the counter-balance weight and chain detached from the crane and came crashing down. The foot of a 19 year-old worker was fractured despite the protection afforded by his safety boots.

Selby Magistrate heard that specialist HSE engineers judged the 13kg weight was not suitably secured in place being attached with a single nut or bolt. The crane involved had missed two of its four-monthly services. It was nine months since the crane was last fully checked.

All six cranes in the mill bay area of the plant were taken out of use after the incident. Three of them were also behind schedule for servicing and numerous defects were found by independent assessors.

Client cannot contract out responsibilities without checks 

Drax Power Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to ensure the crane was in good working order. Konecranes UK Ltd, of West Bromwich, West Midlands, admitted a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Each company was fined £13,300 and ordered to pay costs of £3,151.

HSE Inspector Andy Denison said:

“It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the on-going maintenance and repair of work equipment. The injured worker is, in a sense, fortunate to have suffered only a broken foot. A 13kg weight falling from height could have resulted in a much more serious, or even fatal, injury.

Drax Power and Konecranes didn’t ensure the crane was kept in good working order and this led to the failure of the connection between the counter-balance weight and the steering mechanism of the crane.

Konecranes had fallen behind on servicing and failed to catch up. Their engineers also gave priority to breakdowns over maintenance. Drax continued to allow the cranes to be used even after they found out they had not been serviced. Companies cannot simply contract out their responsibilities and then let the contractor get on with it without checking the work is being done.”

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