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November 12, 2010

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Three firms fined after worker trapped under one-tonne wall

Three companies have appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court after a worker was seriously injured when he became trapped under a prefabricated wall.

The court heard that the incident took place during the construction of a new computer room at BAE Systems Properties Ltd’s site in Broad Oak, Portsmouth, on 20 August 2008.

Principal contractor, Emcor Facilities Services Ltd, and sub-contractor, BS Interiors (South) Ltd, were attempting to build and install a prefabricated wall in the room. They decided to erect the 10.4-metre-long, 2.8-metre-high wall flat on the floor owing to the design of the building.

Once they had completed building the wall seven workers, including Emcor employee Martin Cox, attempted to manually lift the 1136kg wall into place. They raised the structure to waist height and were changing their grip when they decided it was too heavy and aborted the lift. As they lowered the wall, it caught Mr Cox’s bent legs and he became trapped underneath. He suffered dislocated ankles and fractures to his left foot, and needed to use a wheelchair for a year owing to the severity of his injuries. He returned to work after 15 months but is still only able to perform light duties.

HSE specialist inspector for occupational health, Anne Bartlett, revealed that because BAE Systems failed to appoint a Construction Design and Management coordinator, it assumed the responsibility for ensuring that the design was built without presenting a risk to those carrying out the building work. She said: “This case illustrates the importance of identifying hazards at the planning stage. This is the key aim of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

“If a proper risk assessment had been carried out, those involved would have realised that manual handing of the wall would have created a real and obvious risk to those present. It defies common sense and was extremely foolhardy.

“As a result for this failure Mr Cox sustained serious injuries that will affect him for the rest of his life, but which could so easily have been avoided.”

BAE Systems Properties Ltd appeared in court on 9 November and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 20(2)(c) of the CDM Regulations 2007, for failing to appoint a CDM coordinator and, subsequently, for not ensuring that the work was carried out safely. It was fined £8000 and ordered to pay £6110 in costs.

Emcor Facilities Services appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 22(1)(a) of the same regulations, for failing to properly manage the job in its role as principal contractor. It was fined £15,000 with costs of £6110.

BS Interiors (South) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4 of the Manual Handling (Operations) Regulations 1992, and was fined £1500. The Judge did not award costs due to the firm’s lack of financial means.

In mitigation, the court heard that none of the companies had any related convictions and each had co-operated with the HSE’s investigation. They all worked together to create a safe method of work, and redesigned the wall so that it could be built vertically.

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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