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March 3, 2009

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MD fined after apprentice suffers fatal head injuries

An apprentice at a joinery workshop died from serious head injuries after a stack of MDF boards fell on him.

Simon Murphy, 17, was working as an apprentice joiner at Chris Pridmore Joinery Ltd when the accident took place on 6 November 2006, at the firm’s workshop in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

Prior to the accident he was attempting to remove MDF boards, which had been stacked on top of a bench and held in place by a bracket. He had successfully removed one of the boards when the remaining nine boards toppled and struck him on the head. He was rushed to hospital, where he later died as a result of serious head injuries.

There were no witnesses to the accident but it is believed that the boards fell because the bracket was not strong enough to support their weight. HSE principal inspector, Maureen Kingman, told SHP: “The bracket failed after only a week in use. It is not known if the boards simply fell of their own accord, or if Mr Murphy was attempting to push them towards the wall and this resulted in them toppling over.”

The firm’s managing director, Christopher Pridmore, appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on 2 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. By virtue of this plea, he also pleaded guilty to s37(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £7500 and ordered to pay costs of £2500, with no further action taken against his company.

In mitigation, Pridmore accepted responsibility for the accident but said that the bracket had been installed in order to improve safety at his workshop. The firm has folded since the incident and Pridmore now trades under a different name. His new company no longer stores large quantities of chipboard.

Inspector Kingman added: “Mr Pridmore neglected to provide safe arrangements for the storage of sheets of MDF boards. The bracket, which had been produced to Mr Pridmore’s design, posed inherent risk and its use as part of the storage system was ill-conceived.”

In a statement Mr Murphy’s family said they hoped a line could now be drawn under the incident. Added the statement: “Simon is thought of and greatly missed every day by all his family. While the loss of Simon is not lessened we are all pleased that the court case has been concluded.”

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