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    TUNNELLING OPERATOR NEGLECTED SAFETY

    Civil engineering firm fined over uncontrolled ‘whiplash’ risk

    Joseph Gallagher Ltd has been prosecuted after the leg of construction worker was fractured by the whiplash of an industrial hose used in a tunnelling project beneath the London Dorchester Hotel in February 2010.

    Westminster Magistrates heard that Adrian Murray, aged 48, was one of a small group of night shift workers spraying concrete on a 3m diameter service tunnel between the Dorchester and 45 Park Lane.

    Concrete was sent down steel pipes via a connector device to a flexible hose with a nozzle attached for spraying concrete onto the tunnel surface. The pipes were cleaned using compressed air to ‘shoot’ a foam ball and water to the nozzle with the hose secured and hung over a skip to catch the waste.

    When the skip was full the hose was moved to expel to the ground for one final clean. However, the foam ball became lodged at the connector and, as it was rapped with a spanner to free the ball, the hose came free from its restraining rope and whiplashed violently striking Mr Murray.

    HSE investigators found that the company failed to properly assess the risks involved in the cleaning process and the use of compressed air. The workers involved had not received information on a safe system of work to adopt.

    Safe systems must be communicated ‘at the sharp end’

    Joseph Gallagher Ltd of New Derwent House, Theobalds Road, London WC1, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,406 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

    After the hearing, HSE Inspector Pete Collingwood said:

    “Joseph Gallagher Ltd failed in its obligation to employees to identify the risks of the job they do and then provide a safe way for them to carry it out. As a result, Mr Murray has suffered a severe leg injury and has been unable to return to work since.

    The case highlights the importance of producing a risk assessment and associated safe system of work for every dangerous activity. If this task had been properly planned and communicated to those ‘at the sharp end’ on site, it could have easily been prevented.”

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