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COLLAPSE DURING DISMANTLING OPERATION

Falling bulkhead caused life threatening injuries to workman

Tunnel Tech Limited has been £40,000 today after a worker suffered life changing injuries when part of a structure weighing 750kg fell on him.

Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court heard that polytunnel structures were being dismantled when a “bulkhead” fell. The semi-circular polythene structures are used to provide an effective environment for growing vegetation and can also protect crops from adverse weather.

Workers were removing cladding from the structures and cut the side of the tunnel and removed the outer layer and insulation. At one point during the work a fork lift truck was used to remove cladding with a rope attached to the fork lift.

The fork lift was driven away from the tunnel whilst the injured worker was between the tunnel being dismantled and a skip, The tunnel gable wall (weighing 750kg) was pulled from the hoop structure and struck the worker causing severe injuries as he became trapped.

He suffered a collapsed left lung, ruptured diaphragm, displaced intestines, broken pelvis, six rib fractures and fractures to his spine. He spent 10 days in intensive care, and a further 15 days in hospital and required extensive rehabilitation.

HSE told the court the incident was “wholly preventable” if a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had been carried out and the work undertaken by suitably competent people with specialist skills and knowledge.

Assessment would have identified the need for exclusions zones to eliminate the possibility of persons being in the danger zone when the end gable wall fell.

Failed to ensure work adequately assessed, planned and supervised

Tunnel Tech Limited, The Old Airfield, Leckford, Stockbridge, Hampshire, admitted three breaches of regulations; it was fined £20,000 for the first charge – Regulation 29 of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and £10,000 for each of the other two charges – Regulation 4 of CDM and Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations. It was also ordered to pay full costs of £1809.

HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said:

“Demolition and dismantling work is recognised as being a particularly dangerous activity. As a result, it is essential that the risks are sufficiently assessed and the work is properly planned and carried out by persons who have sufficient expertise or training in demolition activities that would make them competent.

The likelihood of the bulkhead falling due to this work was entirely foreseeable but the stability of the bulkhead had not been taken into consideration. The company failed to ensure that the work was adequately assessed, planned and supervised.

Had they sourced and properly appointed a specialist contractor to carry out the work then it is unlikely this incident would have occurred.

This work was not properly planned out by the company and that lack of planning has led to a worker suffering very serious injuries which he is still working hard to recover from many months later. If it was not for the quick response of the air ambulance, could easily have resulted in a fatality.”

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