Steel rope causes fatal injuries after company “failed to heed warnings”
A building products company from Northern Ireland has been fined £100,000 following the death of a 24-year-old employee who was fatally injured when he was hit by a steel rope that snapped at the company’s precast factory at Gortmullan, Co. Fermanagh.
On 13 September 2012 Brian Óg Maguire was tensioning a steel rope measuring approximately 125 metres in preparation for the manufacture of precast cement slabs, at the Quinn Building Products Ltd factory. During the tensioning, the steel rope came adrift at one end and travelled towards Mr Maguire who was positioned in the safety cage.
The steel rope was forced behind Mr Maguire where it struck an object. The rope splayed and two of the individual strands struck Mr Maguire causing fatal injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) found that:
- three wedge segments which grip the steel rope showed signs of wear and damage;
- the tapered barrel, in which the grips were positioned, was worn beyond the manufacturer’s recommended limits;
- the above points resulted in the rope gradually slipping through the grips during tensioning and being released with a force estimated to have been in the region of six tonnes;
- the company did not have suitable arrangements in place to check the grips and barrels were suitable to use; and
- the company did not have a proper system to manage the use and rotation of these safety critical items.
Quinn Building Products Ltd was fined £100,000, plus costs of just over £7,700, at Omagh Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to two health and safety breaches.
Judge Paul Ramsey said that three witnesses standing nearby when the accident happened had referred to previous incidents where wires had come loose. He said there was a “culture of acceptance that this type of mishap was an occupational hazard”.
Adding that because no-one was hurt these incidents went unrecorded and unreported and the company had failed to “heed the warnings of near misses”.
After the hearing, Louis Burns, an inspector with HSENI, said: “Whilst the steel rope behaved in a somewhat unexpected manner when it came adrift, it is clear that the company had not implemented a robust system to manage, inspect and maintain safety critical equipment in this high risk industry.
“This tragic incident was avoidable and it is hard to overstate the potential for death or serious injury arising from poor maintenance.
“Care must be taken to properly identify safety for critical items in any process and to ensure that the correct people, equipment and systems of work are provided to maintain these. It wasn’t on this occasion and a life was needlessly lost as a result.”
Mr Maguire’s parents, Brian and Eileen Maguire, told the BBC: “The penalty imposed on the company responsible for the death of Brian Óg is of very little relevance to us nor will it ease in any way the desperate situation we have been left in.
“For them it may be over today, but for us it will go on forever. ”
They concluded that “if the proper health and safety procedures had been in place our son would be alive today”.
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