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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
September 22, 2008

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Crane came a cropper in soft ground

Two construction companies have shared responsibility for an incident in which a 35-tonne truck-mounted telescopic crane overturned on a building site in Warrington.

Engineering giant Amec, of Northwich, Cheshire, and the crane’s Preston-based owner and operator, Leach Structural Steelwork, were each fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £9143 in full costs by Warrington magistrates on 9 September.

The court heard that Leach had been hired by main contractor Amec to erect a steel frame for a regional fire control centre being constructed at an industrial park in Warrington.

Leach had used many different cranes during the work, the lifting plan for which referred to them being used only within the footprint of the building — the area within the steel frame. However, HSE investigating inspector Nic Rigby told SHP cranes were being used outside the footprint, with the knowledge of both firms.

Amec had been contracted to provide a hard-standing within the footprint in which Leach wanted to use its cranes, and make sure it was of sufficient ground-bearing capacity for the cranes. The area outside the footprint had not been specifically prepared for cranes to stand on.

“The main issue was the width of the stone roadway, and how far away from the footprint it extended,” the inspector explained. “It had not been designed to take into account the outrigger span of the cranes,” he said. One of the five outriggers was outside the prepared area.

On the day of the incident, 27 February 2007, a 5.7-tonne steel beam was picked up by the crane driver. When he slewed around, the weight transferred from the outriggers that had been positioned on the stone to the rear-offside outrigger, which was on unprepared soft ground. The crane sank into the ground, causing it to tip over backwards.

The driver managed to jump clear as it began to fall, while two workers waiting to receive the beam had to run away from it as it fell. As the inspector noted, it was “down to chance alone” that the incident did not result in multiple fatalities.

Amec said in mitigation it had a good health and safety record, and the incident had been an isolated failing by its site manager to require Leach to provide an updated lifting plan. Leach also said it had a good safety record and did have safety procedures in place. This was the first incidence of any of its cranes overturning.

Inspector Rigby cautioned: “This prosecution should act as a warning to all those involved in crane operations. It would have been avoided had the planning and supervision of the lifting operation not been so deficient.”

He continued: “Clear warnings were ignored in the run-up to this incident about the ground-bearing capacity for the use of cranes on the site. The risk assessments that had been produced were inadequate, as they only considered use at a completely different part of the site.”

Amec pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of HSWA by not ensuring the safety of non-employees. Leach pleaded guilty to a breach of s2(1) of the same Act by failing to ensure the safety of its employees.

An Amec spokesperson said after the case: “Health and safety is a top priority for us and although we have sold the construction division, lessons have been learned.” Amec sold its design and project services division in July 2007 and no longer undertakes building 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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