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January 5, 2010

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GBP 280k fine after oil worker is left paralysed

Three companies have been fined a total of £283,332 after a contractor was paralysed during refurbishment work at a Shell oil refinery in Cheshire.

Warrington Crown Court heard that the incident took place on 9 February at the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex, near Ellesmere Port. Dalprop Ltd had been contracted to refurbish a regenerator unit, which is used to convert crude oil into various chemical components.

As part of the work, the concrete lining of the regenerator unit was being removed so that it could be replaced. Scaffolding was constructed inside the unit, which provided openings to allow access to a hoist-activated waste container. The hoist was positioned directly above the interior door of the regenerator unit, and scaffolding boards were placed on top of the opening to allow workers to walk over it.

On the day of the incident, the rope became snagged on the boards, trapping the bin at the top of the hoist. It is thought that the hoist’s lower switch was knocked by a worker, which caused the rope to become slack. The rope later came lose and fell 30 metres, striking workman, Stephen Rizzotti, as he entered the regenerator unit. He suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken pelvis, and is now confined to a wheelchair after being paralysed from the waist down.

Mr Rizzotti has been unable to return to work and has no recollection of the accident. He said: “I can’t remember anything about what happened. Half a dozen people had gone into the building before me but then, as I went in, the waste materials fell on top of me.

“It was touch and go at first, but thanks to the doctors I survived. Now I have to get on with my life in a wheelchair. I have a simple message for all companies — safety has to be paramount.”

Shell UK Oil Products Ltd and Dalprop Ltd appeared in court on 4 January and both pleaded guilty to breaching reg.8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, failing to ensure that lifting is carried out in a safe manner. Shell was fined £116,666 and ordered to pay £16,204 in costs. Dalprop was fined £83,333 with costs of £11,115.

Hertel UK, the company that installed the scaffolding, appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £83,333, with costs of £16,204.

In mitigation, both Dalprop and Hertel UK said they had no previous convictions and deeply regretted the incident. Shell said it took immediate steps, following the incident, to move the hoist to a safe position and ensured that it was properly enclosed. It has also subsequently reviewed its procedures for monitoring contractors on the site.

HSE inspector Alan Graham said: “This incident was totally avoidable and has had a devastating impact on Mr Rizzotti and his family.

“The scaffolding should have been constructed so that the lifting equipment was away from areas where people had to walk. The landing area should also have been suitably protected.

“This case clearly demonstrates why it’s so important for companies to put the safety of their employees first.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

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.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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