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August 17, 2011

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Worker crushed between two skips while urinating

A recycling company has been fined £80,000 after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when he was crushed between two skips while urinating in the yard.

Ayr Sheriff Court heard that Lowmac Alloys Ltd’s site had only one portable toilet, which had no running water. Employees found the toilet to be so filthy that they preferred to use the site’s grounds – a practice accepted by management.

It was for this reason, that Steven Graham, 46, was standing between two skips when the incident happened on 26 August 2009. As he stood there a shovel loader, which weighed more than 18 tonnes, hit one of the skips and pushed it towards the other, crushing Mr Graham between them. He was taken to hospital and treated for a broken pelvis and other severe life-changing afflictions. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries and still has difficulty walking.

HSE inspector Aileen Jardine told SHP that the company had carried out an insufficient risk assessment for traffic management at the site, which meant that no barriers or road markings were in place to separate pedestrians and vehicles. The investigation also found that the shovel loader was too big for the area in which it was operating. Drivers had not been trained in how to use the vehicles, and they were left to work unsupervised.

Inspector Jardine said: “Mr Graham suffered horrendous injuries that will affect him for the rest of his life – but this incident was entirely avoidable.

“If Lowmac had taken simple steps to protect their staff, carrying out a proper risk assessment and taking measures to separate employees from the heavy vehicles that operated on site, this would not have happened.

“And if the company had shown basic consideration for the welfare of their employees by providing a toilet that was fit to use, Mr Graham would not have been left in such a vulnerable position.”

The company was issued three Improvement Notices on 1 September 2009, which required it to provide a formal system to separate pedestrians and vehicles, install suitable welfare facilities, and train workers how to safely operate shovel loaders.

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Andy
Andy
10 years ago

This was a traffic accident, the employee relieving himself between a couple of skips although deplorable is a red herring. If he had been there having a fly smoke or skiving, or putting waste in a skip as part of his work, the accident would still have happened.
The machine being too big to turn in the area, and the proximity of people to objects which were likely to be struck as a result are plain to see, and should have been.

Bridget
Bridget
10 years ago

It seems that the fundamental issue of not having proper toilet facilities was the route cause of this gentleman suffering this terrible accident. It is hard to believe that a company does not consider it a problem that its employees are using the site yard as a toilet.

Csandifo
Csandifo
10 years ago

If the company knew that the area was so unhealthy and dangerous why didn’t deal with the issues before the man suffered life changing injuries. Would these cahnges have been made if they hadn’t been caught? It seems odd that when people with no previous convictions are being given stiff jail sentences for putting pages up on Facebook, companies are effectiively allowed to say we never maimed anyone before as part of their mitigation.

David
David
10 years ago

The politicians who are scurrying around looking to “relieve the burden” of H&S legislation on businesses need to be aware that there are still some criminals who are running Victorian-style operations in 21st C Britain. Greater enforcement of basic “safe work” would be applauded by workers and good managers alike.

It seems unbelievable that conditions such as those described here went unnoticed by the relevant Agency. If true – why is this so?

Elaine
Elaine
10 years ago

Another triumph for the ‘lets rely on common sense’ approach to safety management and regulation. Unfortunately there are all too many similar sites of this kind. Strange how Ministers and politicians rarely comment or publicly condemn and publicise cases like this.

Jeremy
Jeremy
10 years ago

All too often we see people that are maimed at work for things which appear only too obvious after the event. The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. How many employers I wonder have foreseen the potential for an accident when their employee was relieving himself. In a quarry environment this type of welfare facility is often the most practicable, I would suggest.

Jeremy
Jeremy
10 years ago

I think, William, your comment was rhetorical! The whole point is that it isn’t the first time it has happened but how many risk assessments will have in them the risks an employee was faced with when relieving himself in a harsh environment such as a quarry (the point that these people were actualy prosecuted on)? The answer, of course, is very few. Remember, the state will prosecute anyone for such failure if it leads to human loss. The H&S job is not an easy one – is entirely my point.

Jeremy
Jeremy
10 years ago

Let us hope that everyone who speaks of this…casting stones at the management for failing to foresee the risk, aren’t themselves guilty of such human inadequacy. A difficult thing to always get right when other duties have to be fulfilled, standards met and profits made. I’m not making excuses…I’m just saying this is not easy.

Major
Major
10 years ago

Jeremy – could you run that past me again please?

Stuart
Stuart
10 years ago

You don’t need to carry out a risk assessment to see that having filthy toilets such that people urinate in a busy yard is unacceptable. Yes, Victorian standards indeed, and shameful regardless of the circumstances, they should have suffered a penalty for that too. I hope the man gets adequate compensation. However let’s not over-complicate it by the perennial diagnosis of “lack of risk assessment”. Any managing person should see the obvious dangers here, and should be prosecuted for their lapse

Wf
Wf
10 years ago

To accept that this is the most practical solution is failing to see the wood for the trees. Any safety advisor worth a penny would have seen the potential in this incident, it is not hindsight, it is the practice of learning from the myriad mistakes that happen each working day. A great man once said that anyone can make a mistake, a better man will learn from them. Do you really believe that this is the first time this sort of thing has happened?