Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

December 15, 2014

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HSE warns employers following Complete Utilities crush death

Gloucester-based contractor Complete Utilities Ltd has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 for safety failings after an employee died from crush injuries sustained at work. HSE has warned other employers, saying that “the terrible incident could have been avoided if the company had provided proper training to staff”.

It was heard in court how Spencer Powles, 62, from Coleford, returned to the company’s works yard in Maisemore to collect a road saw. While there, he was pinned between a telehandler and a metal shipping container when the vehicle lurched forward.

Mr Powles suffered severe injuries to his abdomen and was airlifted to Frenchay hospital in Bristol, where he died 10 days later.

Gloucester Crown Court heard on 12 December that the incident, on 24 October 2012, happened when the operator of the telehandler was attempting to position its front carriage above the road saw, with the intention of lifting it onto Mr Powles’ lorry.

However, the operator braked suddenly when he saw Mr Powles appear by the saw. This caused the vehicle to lurch forward, trapping Mr Powles between the carriage of the telehandler and the container.

An investigation by HSE established that:

  • the operator of the telehandler had not received proper training from a qualified instructor;
  • the site itself was found to be disorganised and chaotic with no measures to organise traffic or safely separate vehicles and pedestrians on site;
  • no safe system of work for the lifting of such items had been put in place; and
  • the telehandler was poorly maintained.

Complete Utilities Ltd of Overton Farm, Maisemore, Gloucester, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £27,000 after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE inspector Caroline Bird, said: “This terrible incident could have been avoided and Mr Powles would still be here today if Complete Utilities had provided proper training to staff in the operation of this telehandler. It is not acceptable to put drivers into vehicles that they have not previously operated, or without the necessary training by a qualified and competent instructor.

“Workplace transport is the second biggest cause of fatal and major incidents in the workplace. Employers must ensure that all drivers are properly trained by qualified, competent instructors for the vehicles they are operating.

“Site vehicle movements need to be controlled and arrangements put in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians.”

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