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June 27, 2012

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Worker suffers serious head injuries recovering excavator

A haulage operator has admitted failing to create a safe system of work after one of its employees suffered a fractured skull as he tried to recover an abandoned excavator.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard that Tannington Transport Ltd agreed to retrieve an abandoned 17-tonne excavator, owned by one of its employees, from a field in Chelmondiston, Suffolk, as it was interested in acquiring the equipment. The vehicle had been left in the field for more than two years after it broke down during a job.

On 8 September last year, Paul Collins, 51, was one of a team of three fitters sent to retrieve the excavator. When they arrived at the site they realised it would be impossible to tow the excavator with the telehandler they had taken with them. The excavator’s tyres were flat and had sunken into the ground, wedging it firmly in place.

The men decided to use bottle jacks to raise the machine and then place metal sheets under its wheels to make it easier to tow. Mr Collins was kneeling down to raise one of the jacks when it ‘popped’ out under considerable force, and struck him in the head. He was airlifted to hospital where he received treatment for a fractured skull. He was unable to return to work for ten weeks owing to his injuries.

The HSE commissioned a mechanical engineering specialist to investigate the incident. His report identified that the vehicle had been resting at a 9.1 degree angle and was positioned on loose and uneven ground. When the men began raising the machine, the jacks were unable to cope with the pressure.

HSE inspector Anthony Brookes told SHP that Tannington Transport had failed to carry out a risk assessment or provide the team with a safe system of work. He said: “This incident could so easily have been prevented if the company had chosen to act on its duty of care toward the recovery team, as it set off to carry out a non-routine and very hazardous task.
“Employers have a responsibility to provide systems of work that are, as far as practicable, safe and without risk to health. Tannington Transport clearly failed in this regard and, as a result, Mr Collins was very seriously injured and could have been killed.”

Tannington Transport appeared in court on 26 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £6000 and ordered to pay £3291 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had relied on the three experienced workers to create a safe system of work. It has not made any further attempts to remove the vehicle and fully cooperated with the investigation. The company has no previous convictions.

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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