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October 28, 2011

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Lifting diagram followed by workers was “impossible”

A fitter suffered fatal head injuries when he became trapped between two massive nine-metre steel structures during a lifting operation.

Quarrying plant and equipment manufacturer Parker Plant was sentenced on 27 October and fined £180,000, plus £47,500 in a contribution to costs. It had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA by not ensuring the safety of its employee, Michael Tilley, 55, at its Leicester site. 

Leicester Crown Court heard that on the date of the incident, 13 December 2008, a 500-tonne concrete batching-plant installation was being manufactured for a project in Sudan.

Mr Tilley and a colleague had been attempting to load large parts of structural steelwork into a shipping container using an overhead crane. However, because the parts would not fit into the container, they were being placed on the ground next to it.

The two workers were directed to place one 1.5-tonne steel section on top of the other. As they released the lifting chains from the load, the top section slid off the bottom one and fell on Mr Tilley’s head, killing him instantly.

The court was told that Mr Tilley and his colleague had been working with an incorrect diagram that showed the two steelwork structures fitting on top of each other, which, in fact, was not possible. The structures were not strapped together, causing the load to be unstable and liable to fall unexpectedly. The work was not properly planned, or supervised and the lifting equipment provided to do the job was defective.

Principal Inspector Sue Thompson told SHP that Mr Tilley had been given no information on the size, weight, or the centre of gravity of the large structures, which would have enabled the men to sling the load correctly.

She told SHP: “It was routine practice to do difficult lifting operations and the company did not have a competent person to manage them. Mr Tilley was left to his own devices to make the best of a bad situation.”

She said the fatal incident was “utterly preventable” and occurred as a “direct result” of Parker Plant’s approach to the safety of its workers, adding that the company failed to provide the proper training for the work it was undertaking.

“If that work had been adequately planned and supervised, this tragedy would not have happened,” said PI Thompson. “Because of this company’s failures, one man lost his life and another will have to live with the after-effects of witnessing such a horrific incident.”

Parker Plant expressed regret and mitigated that it had made a lot of improvements since the incident, bringing in a bigger health and safety team and introducing new systems and procedures. In a statement issued after the case, the firm said: “Mr Tilley was a long-standing, highly-valued and much-respected colleague and his death affected everyone within the company.

“Following the incident the company has worked very closely with the HSE, and working practices have been thoroughly reviewed and strengthened in attempting to ensure that this kind of accident never happens again.”

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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