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September 9, 2013

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Employee crushed to death following ‘inadequate planning’


A construction firm has been fined £125,000 after a worker was crushed to death at its site in Cambridgeshire, following an investigation by the HSE.

Nigel Sewell, 57, from St Neots, died as a result of his injuries following the incident at Universal Builders Supply on 19 September 2011.

Peterborough Crown Court heard that Mr Sewell was part of a team assembling a tri-mast in the rear yard of the premises. Each section of the mast was being lifted and lowered vertically into a purpose-built jig.

Two sections had been placed and bolted together, but one wasn’t sitting correctly. Mr Sewell and a colleague attempted to force it into the jig using a sledge hammer and a crowbar.

When that failed, the telehandler operator working on the mast was instructed to push the mast section into the jig. Having done this, he then repositioned the telehandler to move the third section. As he did so, the two mast sections — each three metres tall and weighing one tonne — fell onto Mr Sewell.

The HSE found that there was inadequate planning and supervision of the work and that there had been no separation of vehicles from the assembly process.

As a result, the telehandler inadvertently pushed the two sections of the tri-mast onto Mr Sewell.

The HSE said there were several ways in which the accident could have been prevented, including an alternative vehicle to the telehandler, such as an overhead crane, which would have removed the risk that any swinging parts might come into contact with the tri-mast.

After a week-long trial, Universal Building Supply was found guilty of three offences: breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974, regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, and regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company was fined £125,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Graham Tompkins said: “The loss of Mr Sewell was devastating for his family and friends and is made even more incomprehensible by the fact that it was completely avoidable.

“This tragic death could have been prevented had simple safety measures been thought through and put in place.”

Universal Building Supply said it “sincerely regrets the death of Nigel Sewell” and apologised for the mistakes that led to his death.

The company co-operated with the investigation and had a clean health and safety record up to the time of the incident. The company stated in court that the job was a one-off and that it would not be undertaking any similar jobs in the future. 



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