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WORKMAN TRAPPED BETWEEN MOBILE PLANT

Groundworks firm prosecuted after leg of young worker amputated

Gallagher Groundworks Ltd has been fined after a 20 year-old workman had a leg amputated after it was crushed during the construction of Griffin Wind Farm in Perth and Kinross.

Gregor Steele suffered severe injuries when his left leg was crushed between a tractor the bucket of a loading shovel on 3 September 2010. Mr Steele was airlifted to hospital where he underwent a nine-hour operation in an attempt to save his leg. Sadly, this proved unsuccessful and his leg was amputated above the knee.

Perth Sheriff Court heard (19 December) that the company failed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the work being carried out and failed to ensure that the machinery was appropriate for the work, properly maintained with fully operative equipment.

Mr Steele had positioned the tractor to empty a water bowser and used the handbrake on the tractor. There was no parking brake, as this had been disabled by the company mechanic some five months previously. As he stood between the tractor and the loading shovel, the tractor was dragged backwards by the weight of the bowser, pinning him between the two.

HSE told the court that the tractor was not capable of safely towing the weight of the loaded water bowser and that the ‘parking lock’ braking system was not working correctly. The tractor had a maximum towable mass of three tonnes, well below the weight of the full bowser, estimated at around 12 tonnes.

In addition, the bowser’s drum brakes were in a poor state of repair and could not be fitted to the tractor because the connecting hose was missing.

Effects of incident will endure for a lifetime 

Gallagher Groundworks of The Yard, Commissioner Street, Crieff, was fined £32,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Mr Steele was unable to work for two years. He has since been fitted with a prosthetic limb and has returned to work for Gallaghers using an automatic tractor.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Kerry Elliot, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident and the failures by Gallagher Groundworks led directly to this life-changing injury sustained by a young man, aged just 20 at the time of the incident.

The equipment was not suitable in combination for the work it was being put to and furthermore was poorly maintained with the parking lock actually being disabled rather than repaired.

Mr Steele has finally been able to return to work but he will endure the after effects of this incident for the rest of his life.”

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