12/03/2012

Leeds construction companies guilty of health & safety failings

Jack Lunn (Construction) Ltd and Fastsource Ltd were prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive over an incident in which an employee of Jack Lunn who was erecting a fence had both legs broken by a 22-tonne excavator which reversed over him on a building site in Leeds in June 2008.

The incident occurred during preparatory work at the site at Tinshill. The excavator was operated by an employee of Fastsource and the driver was aware that there were other workers on site. A Fastsource colleague had been directed to act as banksman (the person responsible for directing the safe movement of the excavator and nearby workers).

The excavator drove past the fencing worker towards the site entrance and then reversed back down the driveway towards the worker who was wearing a high-visibility vest and the excavator driver had passed him only moments before. The worker believed therefore that he was in no danger; that the site manager and banksman knew of his position as they were both at the site entrance and could see down the access road. Despite this the excavator hit the worker as it reversed, causing him to fall and the machine ran over his legs just below the knee.

Both companies pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and each was fined £8,000 with £6,338.50 in costs. A spokesperson for the HSE said that the incident was “entirely preventable… [had] segregation of vehicles and pedestrians…been put in place by Jack Lunn Ltd or they had suspended vehicle movements while fencing was being erected”. Also, that if “a smaller excavator…been chosen by Fastsource, the driver would not have needed to reverse down the access road”.

The convictions come hot on the heels of a 5-day inspection initiative by the HSE in Merseyside and Cheshire which saw the HSE visit 167 construction sites where 1 in 5 were found to have working practices that could put workers’ safety at risk. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the risk of death, injury and ill health in what is considered to be one of the most dangerous industries. The primary focus being on high-risk activity like working at height and ‘good order’, such as ensuring sites are clean and tidy with clear access routes. Attention is also being paid to structural stability, public protection, fire safety issues and asbestos. During the initiative, HSE inspectors issued 29 Prohibition Notices which stopped work immediately and 15 Improvement Notices requiring changes to be made to working practices. Half of those notices related to unsafe work being carried out at height.

Falls from height are still one of the principal causes of death and major injury in the construction sector with an average of more than five incidents each day.