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January 21, 2011

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Steel firm fined for poorly-planned work at height

A factory worker suffered multiple broken bones after being struck by an overhead crane while working on a scissor lift.

Lanark Sheriff Court heard that the incident took place on 3 April 2008 at steel-fabrication firm BHC Ltd’s factory in Carnwarth, South Lanarkshire. Alexander Struthers, 36, was using the scissor lift to drill holes in steel roof rafters in the factory’s workshop. The work was being carried out as part of an expansion project for the workshop, where the company spray-paints metal beams.

At the time of the incident, Mr Struthers was working with his back towards an overhead crane, which had been installed in the workshop to move steel around. He did not hear the crane moving towards him and it struck the scissor lift, causing it to overturn. He fell 5.5 metres to the ground and suffered fractures to his hip, pelvis, thigh bone, knee, ankle and nose. He underwent surgery to insert pins in a number of his broken bones, but is still receiving physiotherapy and has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Eve Macready revealed the incident was completely avoidable and has had an enormous impact on Mr Struther’s life. She said: “If BHC Ltd construction had properly planned or supervised the work, they would have recognised that the overhead crane was a hazard and stopped it being used while Mr Struthers and his colleagues were working on the roof.

“Duty-holders have an obligation to ensure all work at height is properly planned and a proper risk assessment has taken place.”

BHC Ltd appeared in court on 19 January and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failing to ensure the work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a reasonably practicable safe manner. It was fined £20,000, but no costs are awarded in Scotland.

In mitigation, the firm said it had entered an early guilty plea and cooperated with the investigation. It has subsequently appointed a health and safety manager to ensure that all work at height is properly planned and supervised.

Following the hearing a spokesman for BHC said: “Safe systems of work were in place at the time of the incident, but the company accepts there were failings within the document review system. Since the incident we have amended the sign off procedure for all project specific health and safety plans.”

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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