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September 28, 2009

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Crane driver trapped in cab after jib collapsed

A crane supplier has been fined £100,000 after the jib of a tower crane came loose and fell on to the roof of a hotel.

The Old Bailey heard that Select Plant Hire Company Ltd erected the crane during the construction of an apartment building in Croydon. On 2 June 2007, six of the firm’s workers were attempting to extend the height of the crane from 60m to 98m, using a piece of equipment known as a climbing frame. This apparatus is attached to the mast of the crane and uses adjustable rollers and pads to raise the jib.

The workers had not used this equipment before and none was given any training to use the device. As a result, the team didn’t bolt the jib on to the climbing frame, and the jib, together with the driver’s cab, became detached from the mast, and fell backwards, landing 25 metres below on the roof of the adjacent Croyden Park Hotel. The building suffered serious structural damage, but none of the staff or residents was injured.

The crane driver was trapped inside the cab, on the roof of the hotel, for over an hour until rescue services were able to free him. He was transported to hospital where he received treatment for a fractured skull, two broken ribs, and multiple fractures to his spine, right shoulder, and lumber vertebrae. He has been unable to return to work due to the injuries.

Three members of the team that fitted the climbing frame were left trapped on the mast of the crane for more than10 hours. None of the workers suffered any physical injuries but they were treated for shock.

HSE inspector Amanda Huff told SHP: “This was a horrific accident, which could have easily have resulted in multiple fatalities. The team tasked with extending the height of the crane had insufficient training and subsequently failed to secure the top of the crane correctly.

“This incident could easily have been avoided if the operation had been properly supervised, or the workers received adequate training. Fortunately, nobody in the hotel was injured but the crane drivers and others in the team have suffered as a result of these failures. The hotel was also forced to close for a number of months to repair the damage caused by the accident.”

Select Plant Hire Company appeared in court on 23 September and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 9(2)(b) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, reg. 9(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regualtions 1998, and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £33,196 in costs.

The firm has no previous convictions and mitigated that it reviewed its training programme and the supervision of workers following the accident.

Tony O’Brien, secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, believes the firm “got off lightly”. He told SHP: “This fine is insufficient and I believe that cases like this should be dealt with far more severely in order to act as a deterrent to firms who think it’s acceptable to cut corners on health and safety.

“I would be intrigued to know how the judge decided on this fine, but no amount of money can make up for the suffering endured by these workers.”

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