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UNSUITABLE PILE CROPPER LED TO SERIOUS INJURY

Hire company warned contractor more powerful equipment needed

Topcon Construction Ltd has been fined after a worker suffered serious leg injuries while installing piles for a new school science block at Caistor Grammar School, Lincolnshire in March 2013.

Jamie North, 49, from Grimsby, sustained multiple leg fractures during the pile cropping work. He was off work for a year and is still undergoing treatment on his ankle. He can no longer work in the construction industry.

Lincoln Magistrates heard (10 Nov) how Mr North was working on the construction of the new school building which required the installation of pre-cast concrete driven foundation piles.

The 6m long piles were driven into the ground using a piling rig and the excess part of the piles was cropped using a hydraulic pile cropper.

HSE found the pile cropper hired was only suitable for piles with a single, steel reinforcing bar running through the length of a pile. A power cropper was recommended by the hire company but that advice was “disregarded”.

Magistrates were told the pile cropper used was not powerful enough to cut through the concrete and four steel bars.It was therefore used to nibble the concrete away to expose the steel bars, which were then cut with a disc cutter. The piles were then pushed to the ground in an “uncontrolled manner”.

Mr North was guiding the cropper over one pile when a colleague pushed another pile over. One steel bar had not been cut and the pile twisted and fell onto Mr North.

Failed to heed two warnings

Topcon Construction Ltd of Louth Road, Grimsby, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,980 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and regulation 29(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Topcon Construction Ltd must also pay Mr North compensation of £10,000 for his injuries.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Waring said:

“Topcon Construction Ltd failed to heed two warnings that the pile cropper they had ordered was not suitable for the job, hence the need to adopt the high-risk ‘tree-felling’ method of pushing the piles over.

They should have foreseen that the felling of piles, in an area that workers could wander into, presented a high risk of injury.

Mr North suffered very serious leg injuries in an incident that could have been prevented, had the work been better planned and managed.”

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