Worker’s leg shattered in crane collapse
A motor components manufacturer has been fined £20,000 after a 31-tonne load dropped from an overloaded crane and badly injured a worker.
Chester Crown Court heard that Andrew Burrell, 43, and two other employees were working a night shift at Mitras Automotive (UK) Ltd’s factory in Winford, Cheshire, when the incident took place on 21 May 2009.
The men were using an overhead crane to lower a 6ft x4ft metal tool, containing metal parts, into an industrial press in order to mould rooftops for horseboxes. There were two overhead cranes at the site one with a safe working load limit of 32 tonnes and another with a limit of 27 tonnes. The stronger crane was locked meaning the men had to use the other crane.
The load they were trying to lift weight 31 tonnes. However, as the lifting capacity was not clearly marked on the unlocked machine, they were not aware that it was unsuitable for the task. The chains on the machine were also unsuitable as they had a load capacity of 17 tonnes.
Consequently, as the tool was lifted, the chains snapped and the load fell to the ground, as did the crane’s undercarriage, which fell approximately five metres. The crane’s hook bounced off the floor and struck Mr Burrell’s left leg, shattering his thigh bone. He underwent surgery to insert a metal rod into his leg, and was unable to return to work for more than six months owing to his injuries.
The firm was issued a Prohibition Notice on 12 June 2009, which required it to purchase chains that had the same load limit as the crane. It also received three Improvement Notices ordering it to clearly mark the safe loading limit on lifting equipment, ensure that workers are supplied with the correct lifting accessories, and to improve its organisation of lifting equipment so that staff are able to access both cranes at all times.
HSE inspector, Martin Paren, told SHP that he felt it was a miracle that nobody was killed during the incident. He said: “A worker has been badly injured as a result of this completely avoidable incident, but the consequences could easily have been catastrophic.
“Mitras regularly expected its workers to lift loads well over the lifting capacities of both the chains and the overhead crane. It was only a matter of time before something went wrong.
“Lifting capacities exist for a reason and it’s vital that manufacturers who use overhead cranes make sure employees aren’t put risk from falling loads.”
Mitras Automotive (UK) appeared in court on 31 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 7(a) of the LOLER 1998. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £8792 in costs.
The firm has no previous convictions and, in mitigation, it told the court it has complied with all the enforcement notices and deeply regretted the incident.
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