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November 22, 2010

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Factory worker crushed to death by falling crane load

An HSE inspector has slammed a metal galvanising company for failing to learn the lessons from a near-miss accident after a worker was crushed to death when a crane’s jig and load fell on him.

David Hunt, 49, was operating a travelling crane at Arkinstall Galvanising Ltd’s Ebro Works facility in Tividale, West Midlands, when the incident took place on 16 January 2008.

The crane was lifting 500kg metal components and lowering them into pickle tanks where they were dipped in acid and rinsed before being galvanised. During the lift the crane’s jig and load fell and landed on Mr Hunt, crushing him against a wall. He died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

The HSE’s investigation found that the machinery was unsuitable for use and had been poorly maintained. The safety catches on the crane’s hooks were broken and wire had been wrapped round the catches to hold them in place. It’s thought that either one of the hooks broke during the lift, or the load was balancing on the point of the hook when it became unbalanced and fell.

The company has now been sold and its management created a holding company called Ark Brothers Ltd, which is still waiting to receive the funds from the sale.

HSE inspector Judith Lloyd told SHP that the company had failed to learn lessons from a previous incident where the crane’s jig had fallen but nobody was injured. She said: “Mr Hunt’s tragic death was completely avoidable and resulted directly from an unsafe system of work.

“There were significant problems with the hooks on the crane and Ark Brothers ignored warnings as to their condition over several months, and no lessons were learnt from previous incidents.”

Ark Brothers appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 17 November and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined a total of £1500 and ordered to pay £37,500 in costs.

Judge Dudley stated that he had decided against imposing a large fine due to the fact the company has no assets. But he said that the fine would have been in “the hundreds of thousands” had the firm been financially viable.

The company had no previous convictions and said it had fully cooperated with the investigation. It removed the crane from service until the repairs were completed.

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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13 years ago

The company may have no assets but what about the directors? Who gets the money from the sale? HASWA sect 36 and 37 come to mind as does the Corporate Manslaughter Act. Hopefully as a breach of PUWER, LOLER, MHASWR etc. the route is open for a civil action against the Employers Liability Insurance for the deceased relatives etc?

13 years ago

Don’t you get tired of reading a company’s plea that they have no previous convictions and they cooperated with the investigation? No convictions – my, they’ve been lucky… And of course they cooperate – they know it will reduce their fine. Why don’t these companies use long-term vision and put equal amounts of effort into prevention in the first place??

13 years ago

This case highlights a number of issues to me, and they are
1. The importance of thoroughly investigating near misses and coming up with answers to why the incident occurred (Underlying and root causes)and recommendations to prevent it from happening again.
2. The law (Punishment not fitting the crime) , a total fine of £39.000 for a preventable death is a total disgrace
3. Agreement with Lord Mckenzie (Article on shp homepage)