A tragic miscommunication resulted in a member of the public being crushed to death by a scrapyard grab claw.
Barry Collins, 24, and his brother Joey visited the scrapyard in Sholing, Southampton on 2 August 2007. They were friends with the managing director of the site and had previously been allowed to inspect vehicles for valuable parts that they could sell.
On the day of the incident, the brothers entered the yard through an open back gate, but none of the site workers were aware that they were on site. They began to inspect the engine and transmission of a Volkswagen van, which was positioned next to an un-manned mobile grab-claw crane. Barry was inside the vehicle when the crane operator returned to his post and powered up the device.
Joey approached the crane and tried to warn the driver that his brother was inside the van, but the operator misunderstood and thought that he was being given a signal to pick up the vehicle with the grab. As the crane picked up the van, the claws punctured its sides and crushed Barry. Another site worker heard a scream, and on seeing Barry inside the vehicle, rushed over to tell the crane operator to lower the van. As the van touched the ground, Barry’s body fell out and he was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of serious neck injuries.
HSE inspector Roger Upfold said: “This was a truly tragic miscommunication that led to a man’s death. Had simple measures been in place to control site access and let members of the public know where they should and shouldn’t go, this awful incident would probably never have happened.”
The owner of the scrapyard, James Huntley and Sons Ltd, appeared at Southampton Crown Court on 27 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.3(6) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, for failing to carry out a risk assessment. It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £34,373 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it closed the site immediately after the incident, and hired a safety consultancy to produce a safety document and site rules before the facility was re-opened. It has also put signs across the site to warn people not to enter without permission.
Inspector Upfold added: “Recycling sites are dangerous work environments. As such, warning notices, communication of site rules, and the use of high-visibility clothing should all be used to set clear expectations for the behaviour of visitors.”
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In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.
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