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March 31, 2009

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Poor supervision instrumental in crane deaths

Two crane companies have been convicted of health and safety failings

that led to the deaths of two workers and left a third seriously


On 27 March, a jury at Chichester Crown Court found WD Bennett’s Plant & Services Ltd guilty under s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg. 8(3) of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996. The company had entered a not-guilty plea.

Eurolift (Tower Cranes) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WD Bennett, pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and the same construction regulations charge.

The court heard that Eurolift employees, Steve Boatman and Gary Miles, had been working on the jib of a crane, which was being used on a construction site at a school in Durrington, Worthing, on 11 February 2005. A third man, who was injured in the incident, was working on the crane’s mast, having been instructed to de-torque the mast bolts of the crane.

The court heard that he should have slacked off the bolts one by one, and then re-tightened each bolt in turn. However, he had received no training in this task and so left the bolts partly unfastened.

Consequently, as the crane was turned, it collapsed, hurling Mr Boatman and Mr Miles to the ground. Both died from injuries sustained in the fall, while the third worker suffered several broken bones and lacerations. Both companies will be sentenced on a date still to be set.

HSE investigating inspector, Peter Collingwood, said: “This was a tragic and highly avoidable accident, in which two men lost their lives. It was caused by the inadequate supervision of a worker who was not trained, nor competent for the task that he was asked to undertake.

“To avoid future tragedies like this, employers and contractors must ensure that tower-crane work, including erection and dismantling, is only undertaken by trained, experienced, and competent people who are supervised adequately.”

A spate of serious incidents involving tower cranes has triggered various actions to bring about safety improvements. Most recently, the HSE was instructed by the DWP to draw up plans for a national register of tower cranes — a recommendation suggested last year by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which the Government initially snubbed. Best-practice guidance is also freely available from the Strategic Forum for Construction’s tower-crane working group.

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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