Peter Cole, 61, was employed by Amey Infrastructure Services and was part of the maintenance team working on the dual carriageway. He had repaired one of the lights from inside the basket of a cherry-picker when, as he was being lowered, the vehicle’s lifting arm collapsed. He fell eight metres and landed on the back of the vehicle. He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries the next day.
The HSE’s investigation learned that the cherry-picker, which was one of three identical vehicles rented from Highland Access Ltd, was nine years old and had a lengthy maintenance record. The joint on the cherry-picker’s arm had progressively degraded as a result of exposure to the elements, and, consequently, it could not cope with the force exerted when lowering Mr Cole.
Inspectors also found that Amey Infrastructure Services and Mouchel Parkman Services had a system in place that required the vehicles to be inspected daily, but these checks weren’t consistently carried out. During inspections of the two other hired cherry-pickers, the HSE found faults with the emergency stop mechanism on both vehicles. As a result, both companies were issued with two Prohibition Notices, which required both vehicles to be taken out of service until they were repaired.
HSE inspector Dave Guyers told SHP that both companies should either have ensured that newer cherry-pickers were used, or made sure that regular safety checks on the existing hire vehicles were carried out continuously. He said: “Both companies had a legal duty to ensure Mr Cole remained safe but their checking and maintenance systems were inadequate, and thus allowed him to use a cherry-picker that was in a poor condition.
“Heavy usage and a regular repair record demand that checking and maintenance procedures are carried out thoroughly. This is vital with cherry-pickers, which place users at great risk when working at height.”
Amey Infrastructure Services appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on 1 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £32,500 in costs. Mouchel Parkman Services appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was ordered to pay the same level in fines and costs. In mitigation, both firms said they had cooperated with the investigation and have subsequently hired new equipment, ensuring that daily checks are carried out on the vehicles.
After the hearing, a spokesperson for Amey Infrastructure Services said: “This case arises out of an accident that occurred over five and a half years ago. The judge noted that none of the acts, or omissions were in any way causative of the death of Mr Peter Cole.” The HSE also brought charges against Highland Access Ltd but the company went into liquidation in July and the case is no longer being pursued.