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May 10, 2009

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Crane fall leaves worker fighting for life

A workman suffered life-threatening injuries after falling more than six metres to the ground while he was trying to clean an overhead crane.

Gurmohan Lal, 41, was working as a plant attendant for MES Environmental Ltd at the firm’s Wolverhampton plant in June 2008. The site was midway through its annual two-week shutdown, which is used to carryout cleaning and maintenance.

During this period one of his colleagues asked management for permission to clean the cross travel beam on one of the cranes. He was given clearance to begin the work and spent an hour a day cleaning the crane during the two days that preceded the accident.

On the morning of 19 June the staff member requested help to finish the job. Mr Lal was one of the men chosen to help even though he had not carried out this task before and was not given any training.

During the cleaning process Mr Lal fell from the crane and landed on the concrete floor below. None of his colleagues witnessed the incident and Mr Lal has no recollection of what caused him to fall. He was rushed to hospital suffering from multiple fractures to his skull, a broken collarbone, several broken ribs, and swelling to his brain. He was discharged from hospital after five weeks but has been unable to return to work owing to the severity of his injuries.

HSE inspector, David Evans, told SHP there was neither an effective risk assessment in place, nor satisfactory supervision. He said: “This accident could have been avoided if the company had been more proactive with its employees. It failed to take the necessary steps to assess the individual task, and it allowed employees to work unsupervised in an unsafe manner.”

MES Environmental Ltd appeared at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court on 5 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The firm was fined £8000 and ordered to pay £3533 towards the HSE’s costs.

In mitigation, MES said it had no previous convictions and had fully cooperated with the HSE’s investigation. It has subsequently installed a running line and all employees must wear a full-body harness and lanyard while working on cranes.

Inspector Evans added: “There really is no excuse for this kind of accident. Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury, but the vast majority of these accidents are preventable if companies assess the risks properly.”

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