Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

September 29, 2014

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Worker’s skull fractured after barrel falls from lorry

An Aberlour-based haulage firm has been fined £8,000 after a worker was seriously injured when an unsecured barrel fell from a lorry onto his head during unloading at Speyside Cooperage.

William Sim, then 60, from Aberlour, had worked for McPherson Limited for 27 years when the incident happened on 14 January 2013. He suffered fractures to his skull and right eye area as well as a vertebra. He needed 14 stitches to his skull and to his lower left leg.

Following the incident he needed to wear a ‘halo’ frame neck brace for six months, to be replaced afterwards with a soft neck collar.

The neurologist treating Mr Sim told him he was lucky to be alive as the impact of the barrel broke the top vertebra in his neck, which can affect the respiratory system.

He has since been advised that the bones in his skull and spine may never fully heal.

Mr Sim was unable to return to work until mid-October 2013 when he needed a phased return to work and was initially placed on light duties.

Elgin Sheriff Court heard on 25 September how Mr Sim had driven the three-level vehicle loaded with 210 empty bourbon casks from the company’s Fisherton Garage depot in Aberlour to Speyside Cooperage, where the casks were to be unloaded for repair.

He parked along the slope of the unloading bay with the cab facing the front of the Cooperage. A landing sponge was placed at the rear of the lorry to catch loads if they fell but no restraints were put in place to prevent the barrels falling from the third tier other than wooden chocks.

A Cooperage employee opened the right hand side door of the lorry and, walking backwards, pulled the door around and secured it to the side of the van. Mr Sim started to do the same with the left hand side door, but when it was open by about a foot, one of the bourbon casks, weighing more than 40kg, fell from the top level of the van and struck Mr Sim on the head, knocking him to the ground.

An investigation by HSE found that McPherson Limited had failed to ensure a suitable system was in place to secure loads on all third tiers of vans.

Inspectors found the van was loaded with 210 empty bourbon casks, with 80 on the bottom deck, 80 on the second, and the remaining 50 loaded on top of the casks on the second deck. These 50 casks were ‘secured’ by wooden chocks placed at the front of the casks but with no safety bar or similar protective measure in place.

McPherson Limited, of Aberlour, Moray, was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 10(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the case, HSE principal inspector Niall Miller, said: “This was an entirely avoidable incident. Objects falling from height remain one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and it is extremely fortunate that Mr Sim survived.

“McPherson Limited should have put systems in place to make sure cargo carried at high levels in its fleet of lorries is securely held, and during loading and unloading.

“Mr Sim still suffers a constant dull pain in his neck and head and gets dizzy if he moves too fast.”

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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