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April 21, 2009

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Worker crippled in “flawed” loading operation

A construction firm has been hit with a £50,000 penalty after one of its employees received serious crush injuries while loading steel panels on to a trailer. 

David Farr was loading the shuttering panels on to a grain trailer when the accident took place on 15 February 2007. The panels, which each weighed approximately 1.5 tonnes, were to be transported to a farm in Devon, where they would be used to erect a wall. A load of this kind would usually be transported on a flat-bed lorry but, owing to high winds, it was decided that a tractor and trailer should be used instead.   

Mr Farr climbed into the trailer to guide the shutters into place and unhinge them, but after successfully loading two of the panels, the load tipped and fell on top of him. As a result, he suffered serious abdominal injuries and was rushed to hospital, where he underwent surgery to amputate one of his legs and part of his pelvis. Due to the severity of his injuries he has not been able to return to work.

His employer, RT Trailers and Farm Buildings Ltd, appeared at Exeter Crown Court on 8 April and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. The firm was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the company entered an early guilty plea and expressed remorse for the accident. It admitted that the system of work was unsafe and would use a different method if it faces similar weather conditions in the future.

HSE Principal Inspector, Andrew Kingscott, told SHP: “This accident demonstrates the serious — and sometimes, very personal life-changing — consequences of failing to assess risks and properly planning work activity when lifting and transporting heavy components.

“In this particular case, the decision to use the trailer to transport the panels and the system of work adopted were both flawed. The usual method of work was unsuitable due to the weather conditions but poor planning and lack of foresight led to an unsuitable alternate method being used.

“The incident could have been avoided if the company had decided against transporting the shutters in such bad conditions or by finding a way to properly secure the load. What initially should have been a simple job ended in tragedy.”

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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