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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
December 17, 2010

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Contractor wasn’t provided safe system of work for crane repairs

An engineer fell 18ft from a tower crane after suffering an electrical shock while trying to carry out maintenance work.

David Minor, 63, was working as a sub-contractor at building and timber merchants Ridgeons Ltd in Sudbury, Suffolk, when the incident took place on 16 September 2008. He was employed by Graham Parish Engineering, which had been sub-contracted by Ridgeons to carry out maintenance on a tower crane.

Mr Minor was instructed by Ridgeons to replace a missing end-cap on the crane, which acts as a cover to the main power rail. He climbed up the crane’s ladder and was getting into position to start the job when his arm made contact with the exposed part of the power rail.

The conductor carried three-phase 415 volts of electricity, but was not marked and had not been isolated before the work started. Mr Minor became trapped between the ladder and the power rail by the electrical current and was only able to break free by stepping off the ladder and falling 18ft to the concrete floor below.

He sustained a fractured vertebra, a broken ankle and heel, as well as burns to his hands. He has subsequently been forced to take early retirement on medical grounds.

HSE inspector Jonathan Elven told SHP that Ridgeons failed to provide Mr Minor with a safe method of work and allowed him to carry out the job even though he was not qualified to work with electricity. The firm also did not ensure that the power supply was isolated before Mr Minor began working on the crane.

Said inspector Elven: “It’s essential for companies to ensure that work undertaken on their behalf by sub-contractors is properly managed and safe systems of work agreed prior to work commencing.

“Ridgeons has admitted that the task was handed over to Mr Minor without discussion as to the way it was to be undertaken or any precautions that may be needed prior to it being started.”

Ridgeons appeared at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on 16 December and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £4355 towards costs.

The firm has no previous convictions and mitigated that it has retrained all managers about the company’s policy for controlling contractors. It has also revised its procedures to ensure that its employees work with contractors to jointly agree safe methods of work.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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