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July 19, 2013

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Unannounced HSE visit uncovers storage safety failings

A skip-hire company has admitted allowing dangerous working practices to take place in relation to the storage of skips at a goods yard in London.

On 19 July 2011, HSE inspectors carried out an unannounced visit to Simpson Eco Skips Ltd’s facility in Park Royal. They witnessed a worker climbing down a stack of skips after attaching a crane hook to a shackle. The stack was ten metres high and he descended without any fall prevention equipment.

A second worker was also seen clambering up and down a smaller stack without any measures in place to prevent a fall. The HSE established that management had neither managed to identify the dangerous practice nor ensured workers were trained to work at height.

The company also failed to produce a valid certificate for the crane to confirm it had been properly examined and was in good working order. The HSE issued five Improvement Notices against the firm, which required:

  • a safety certificate to be produced for the crane;
  • workers provided with adequate work-at-height training;
  • the creation of a safe system of work;
  • skips to be stored safely to prevent them falling, collapsing, or overturning, or unintended movement;
  • a sufficient risk assessment to be carried out for working at height.

HSE inspector Neil Fry said: “Standards for controlling risks arising from working at height, as well as the general management of health and safety, can be pretty poor in the skip-hire sector of the waste industry, as was clearly the case at Simpson Eco Skips.

“The failings we uncovered were for technical breaches, but workers could have been seriously hurt, or possibly even killed as a consequence of the dangerous practices and lack of safety awareness and provisions.”

Simpson Eco Skips Ltd appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 18 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg.9(3) of LOLER 1998, for failing to ensure the crane was properly maintained. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £1260 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it cooperated with the investigation and complied with all the enforcement notices. It also told the court it had no previous convictions.

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