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January 6, 2009

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Men injured in cherry-picker collision

Two men were critically injured after being thrown from a cherry-picker when a truck crashed into the platform.

The incident took place on the A19 in Bootham, York outside the home of one of the workmen, Chris Cook, on 2 August 2007. Mr Cook had hired the cherry-picker from William Birch and Sons Ltd, in order to carry out repairs to the outside of his property.

Karl Thackrah, an employee of William Birch and Sons, was responsible for the operation of the cherry-picker. The platform was positioned on the cobbles between the pavement and the main road. Thackrah raised the platform to the height of the first floor of the house and, in doing so, allowed the elbow of the device to jut out into the road.

Both men were applying touch-up paint to the outside of the property, when an HGV collided with the elbow of the cherry-picker. The force threw the men off the platform and into a tree, before landing face first on the ground below. Both men suffered serious head injuries but Mr Cook was in a coma for a month and has still not fully recovered from his injuries.

William Birch and Sons pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £12,500 and ordered to pay costs of £2500 at York Magistrates’ Court, on 4 September 2008.

Thackrah pleaded not guilty to breaching s7(a) of the same act and opted for his trial to be heard at crown court. But when he appeared in front of York Crown Court on 22 December he decided to enter a guilty plea. He was fined £2500 and ordered to pay costs of £3500.

In mitigation, William Birch and Sons admitted that it hadn’t taken steps to reinforce a safe system of work. But it pointed out that Thackrah had been provided with the proper safety equipment and training, which could have prevented the accident.

Thackrah’s QC told the court that his client deeply regretted the incident and the accident was not in keeping his client’s character. He also stated that Thackrah had limited recollection of the incident but admitted that his client had been fully trained by William Birch and Sons.

HSE inspector, Paul Robinson, told SHP: “Work at height must always be properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner, and this is particularly important in a roadside situation where other vehicles and members of the public are involved.

“William Birch and Sons had provided training, information, and equipment for Mr Thackrah but it failed to ensure that the particular risks involved in the work at this location were adequately assessed and controlled. Mr Thackrah failed to take reasonable care while setting up and operating the platform.”

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