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February 13, 2009

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Workman whipped to death by industrial hose

Two construction firms have been fined over an incident in which a worker sustained fatal injuries after being hit by a violently-whipping industrial hose.

Doncaster Crown Court, sitting on 10 February, heard that four workmen were pouring concrete to form the floor of an office building at the Redhouse Interchange in Doncaster, when the accident took place on 1 December 2003.

A truck-mounted concrete pump was being used to transfer the concrete from the delivery lorries to the building floor. Michael Broughton and three colleagues had successfully carried out this operation during the morning before stopping to have lunch. On their return, a truck carrying fresh concrete had arrived and poured its contents into the pump.

When the workmen switched on the pump it reacted violently and they heard an explosion. As a result the hose, which was transferring the concrete from the pump, started to whip violently. One of the men was holding the hose and he was thrown approximately two metres across the room and received superficial injuries. The other men turned away from the hose in order to protect themselves and when they turned back they noticed that Mr Broughton had been critically injured, however none of them had witnessed exactly what happened to him. He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival as a result of severe head injuries.

His employer, UCS Civils Ltd (formerly Universal Construction Services Ltd), pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £31,600 costs.

Pochin Concrete Pumping Ltd, who supplied the pump, pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the same Act and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

Although the incident took place in 2003 the case was first heard by magistrates just last year. HSE inspector Rob Cooper revealed that the prosecution had been severely delayed because it had taken three years for the case to go through the coroner’s court. He told SHP: “The HSE is unable to prosecute until a verdict is reached in coroner’s court. This is the reason that it has taken so many years for this case to reach court.”

In mitigation, UCS Civils said that it was not an expert in laying concrete and so had contracted Pochin to do the work. The firm blamed Pochin for the incident and claimed the contractor had failed to properly train employees in how to safely carry out the process.

Pochin’s mitigation stated that it had undertaken a risk assessment based on operating the pump during the first pour of the day but admitted it hadn’t considered the dangers that might arise each time the machine was re-started. As a result of the accident, Pochin developed a new type of delivery hose, which reduces the potential of violent whipping. The firm stated that since the new hose has been introduced there have been no similar incidents, and it has earned industry awards for its design.

Inspector Cooper added: “This case highlights the need to fully consider all the risks involved when planning work and putting in place measures to control the risk.

“The precautions that should have been adopted were as simple as to ensure that no one stood close to the end of the flexible delivery hose until concrete was flowing smoothly from it – something which would have not added any significant cost or time to the work.”

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