Company failed to identify risks associated with underground work…
An international engineering company has been prosecuted in the courts after an employee broke his left leg in a whiplash injury while working on a construction project at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
The civil engineering company which is based in London but operates internationally, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court facing charges of breaching health and safety law after the incident which occurred on 27 February 2010.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) decided to prosecute the firm after their investigation into the incident uncovered safety failings during the project which involved tunnelling under the hotel. The 48-year-old accident victim had been part of small team working the night shift, who were assigned the task of spraying concrete on a service tunnel connecting the hotel and a local road. The workers were delivered the concrete via steel pipes that were connected to a flexible hose – when their shift ended they were required to clean the pipes using compressed air. The hose itself was secured and maintained in position over a skip that routinely collected any waste. The accident occurred when the hose was left on the ground because the skip was full and a member of the team had sent a foam ball into the pipes to clean them, but it became jammed and so he struck it was a spanner causing the compressed air to suddenly escape and move the hose with such force that it broke the accident victim’s leg.
The court was told that the civil engineering company had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment and had not taken into account the dangers associated with using compressed air. Furthermore, the court was informed that the employees had not received the necessary training or supervision to carry out their tasks in a safe manner.
The company was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,406 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE Inspector Pete Collingwood commented after the hearing:
“The company failed in its obligation to employees to identify the risks of the job they do and then provide a safe way for them to carry it out. As a result, the accident victim has suffered a severe leg injury and has been unable to return to work since.
“The case highlights the importance of producing a risk assessment and associated safe system of work for every dangerous activity. If this task had been properly planned and communicated to those ‘at the sharp end’ on site, it could have easily been prevented.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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