Thursday 1 March 2012

Company failed to act on near misses

A factory worker died from serious head injuries when a machine weighing two-thirds of a tonne fell on him after being dislodged from its mountings by a passing trailer. Hull Crown Court heard that Ronald Wood worked as a driver at Montracon Ltd’s factory in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, where the company specialised in fitting refrigeration units inside lorries.

On 15 September, the 59-year-old was waiting for a trailer to be brought over to the tractor he was driving, so he could tow it to another part of the site to receive modifications. He was stood underneath a steel vacuum lifter, which was fixed to the wall by overhead brackets. When the trailer was brought over to him by a pedestrian-operated tug, it struck the brackets, causing the machine to become dislodged. It fell three and a half metres, landing on top of Mr Wood. He died in hospital later that day from serious head injuries.

The HSE visited the site the following day and issued a Prohibition Notice, which required trailer movement to cease until steps were taken to ensure vehicles were properly separated from pedestrians, and to eliminate the risk of machines being damaged by moving vehicles. HSE inspector Steven Kay told SHP that Montracon had failed to carry out a risk assessment for workplace transport. There had also been a number of near-miss incidents in the weeks leading up to the incident, involving trailers striking machines, but these had gone unreported. The inspector also explained that there was no need for the machine to have been stored at height. He said: “There were obvious failures in basic safety precautions, sadly leading to an unnecessary death and the tragic bereavement of a family.

“If Montracon had a suitable plan to control the movement of trailers in the workshop area, then they would have realised it was not safe to manoeuvre a trailer past a heavy piece of equipment that could be dislodged. But it failed to consider the risks, or take basic and inexpensive precautions relating to storing heavy equipment at height.
All employers need to have a system to record near misses and investigate them. The resulting information could prevent loss of life.”

Montracon appeared in court on 27 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 3(1) of the MHSWR 1999. It was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £30,033 in costs. In mitigation, the firm said it complied with the enforcement notice by carrying out a full risk assessment. It now stores the machine at ground level and ensures that the routes along which the trailers travel are clear of obstructions and pedestrians. The company also said it had no previous convictions.

Source: SHP

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