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March 23, 2007

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Worker paralysed after being hit by excavator

A North Wales employee suffered serious spinal injuries and paralysis from the waist down after he was thrown into the air by an excavator on a building site in Bangor in February 2005.

Colwyn Bay construction company SFJ was fined £15,000 and told to pay the HSE’s partial costs of £7500 after pleading guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA by not ensuring the safety of general labourer, Clive Forbes.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard on 2 March that Forbes had been assisting with the unloading of a cement mixer. He was standing on the back of a pick-up truck, attaching chains to the mixer. An inadequately trained colleague had been operating a 360-degree excavator to lift the mixer from the back of the pick-up truck.

The operator of the excavator leaned out of his cab to shout instructions to Forbes to use the lifting attachment on the mixer to attach the chains. As he sat back down, he caught his coat on one of the control levers, which caused the boom of the excavator to rise and lift the mixer up in the air, taking Forbes with it. He was knocked off the pick-up truck on to the ground, sustaining injuries that led to the paralysis.

SFJ said in mitigation that it had a good safety record; it had put in an early guilty plea; and it had complied promptly with an Improvement Notice issued during the investigation.

“The operator of the excavator was not trained,” Debbie John, the investigating HSE inspector emphasised to SHP. The judge said in summing up that experience was no substitute for formal training.

Inspector John continued: “It is tragic that the accident happened and that Clive Forbes sustained such serious injuries. However, it serves to highlight the need for formal training, and for employers to check that employees have the training required for the machinery they operate.”
 

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