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July 27, 2012

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Worker injured in access-equipment oversight

Two companies have been prosecuted for safety breaches after a worker was struck by a pipe and fell from a stepladder at a factory in Durham.

MB Air Systems Ltd was contracted to install new pipework on a compressed-air distribution system at automotive-parts manufacturer GT Precision Products Ltd’s factory in Peterlee.

A 37-year-old worker from MB Air Systems was trying to access some existing pipework in a corridor when the incident took place on 13 December 2010. The pipes were three metres above ground level and he used a stepladder to access them.

As he climbed the stepladder he lost his balance and tried to steady himself by grabbing a lever valve, which opened and released a jet of compressed air. The open pipe then swung round, hitting him on the left side of the head and knocked him off the ladder. He suffered 14 hairline fractures to his skull, a fractured left-eye socket, and bruising to his brain and lower back.

The HSE visited the site two days later and issued an Improvement Notice to MB Air Systems, which required it to control work at height. It also served an Improvement Notice to GT Precision Products for failing to control contractors.

HSE inspector Paul Miller told SHP that a risk assessment carried out by MB Air Systems, and provided for GT Precision Products, stated that a powered access platform should be used to reach the pipes. However, this equipment was not provided, so the worker made his own arrangements and obtained the stepladder from the factory.

“This incident could have easily been prevented if the appropriate access equipment, as identified by the risk assessment, had been provided by MB Air Systems,” said inspector Miller.

“Equally, GT Precision Products should not have allowed the work to commence without the proper access equipment. Where companies have contractors on site, the work of contractors must also be properly monitored.”

MB Air Systems appeared at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on 26 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA. GT Precision Products also attending the hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the same Act. Both companies were fined £5000 and each ordered to pay £3196 in costs.

In mitigation, MB Air Systems admitted it should have issued the correct equipment but stressed that it did not provide the stepladder. Both firms expressed their regret that the incident took place and neither had any previous convictions.

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11 years ago

Deliberate, premeditated breach of the law and only a token ‘slap on the wrist’? What’s going on here?

All we can hope for is that an increased insurance premium or increased excess on the policy as a result of a good no-win-no-fee settlement may provide these companies with a bit of focus on the simple, lo-cost measures that should be applied to prevent injury to their personnel. But don’t hold your breath!

As Bob says above, referring to the £5k fine; “Where is the deterrent in that?”

11 years ago

Two companies blatantly ignores a RA control requirement and are only fined 5 k?

You would get a bigger fine for poor waste handling under the EPA requirements?

Where is the deterrent in that?

This chap is fortunate not to be more seriously injured or killed, yet the severity of failure is not reflected in the fine, good fortune/luck should have no bearing upon the seriousness of such failure.

And any civil claim is insurable and as such reduces the impact upon the duty holder.