UPDATED: London council fined £500k after worker sawed leg to the bone
Friday 8th July 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Southwark Crown Court heard that George Ball, 58, who was a roadworker for the council, was clearing a blocked drain in a residential street in Romford on 2 March 2015 and needed to cut back trees above the ditch containing the drain.
Ball was using a hand-held petrol-driven Stihl cut-off saw with a rotary blade to lop branches when the blade jammed in the wood. As he pulled it free, the blade glanced across the upper part of the his left leg cutting through to the bone. He needed surgery and 60 stitches, and also sustained muscle and ligament damage.
HSE inspector Samantha Gillatt told IOSH Magazine the cut-off saw was part of the council team's equipment, usually used for cutting concrete. The blade Ball used had been purchased by a council manager and had been used once before to lop trees.
"The rotary blade was one that you would usually find in a woodworking shop for cutting pieces of timber. So it should only be used in a cross-cut saw or similar," said Gillatt. She added that though the council had a risk assessment for the saw's use it did not cover cutting branches. "It was a generic Stihl saw risk assessment," said Gillatt.
In court Vivek D'Cruz, prosecuting, was quoted as saying: "Mr Ball had never read or been directed to the manuals for the equipment he used in his job, including the cut-off saw that caused him such a serious injury that day. Nor did he know where such manuals were kept.
The judge set the council's culpability as medium because there were clear warnings in the Stihl saw's manual about the risks of using incorrect blades. The judge said he put more emphasis on the potential harm risked than the actual harm caused. He set the likelihood of injury as high and the potential for injury as level A. ("That blade, if it had come down on his neck could have caused a fatality and the Stihl saw manual warned about that," Gillatt noted). This combination of likelihood and potential harm - in lieu of the actual harm -- placed the offence in Category 1 in the guidelines.
The authority's turnover was assessed by reference to its annual budget -- just under £159m for 2016-17 -- which made it a large organisation for sentencing purposes. The starting point for the fine was £1.3 million and the range was from £800,000 and £3.25 million. The judge noted Ball's injury, the actual harm from the failing, was an aggravating factor in the case, but in setting the penalty at £500,000 he allowed for the fact that Havering had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and that a high penalty could lead to cuts in the local authority's services.
The fine is one of the first to be imposed on a local authority since the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences were introduced earlier this year. The council must also pay prosecution costs of £8,240. Havering is said to be considering an appeal against the penalty because it believes it is too high.
Complete Demolition had been contracted to demolish a school at Stanney Lane, Ellesmere Port in Cheshire to make way for a new leisure centre. On 27 November 2013, while the site was being cleared, a skip truck driver reversed into a space that a 40 tonne excavator was vacating. Another worker, who was on foot, was standing in the same area. As the excavator manoeuvred it hit him, knocked him to the ground and ran over his foot.
Matthew Hoare, a mobile tyre fitter for Watling Tyre Services (read previous story from earlier this month), was sent out alone to repair the puncture on a wheel of a loading shovel at brick maker Hammill Brick in Kent. He was carrying out a plug repair, when the 1.4 m-diameter tyre failed and exploded.
Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Solihull and Birmingham, opened inquests into the five deaths on 20 July and immediately adjourned them, pending investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the police. The five workers were killed when a 4.5 m concrete wall collapsed on them at a recycling facility in Birmingham.The wall, at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling’s Aston Park Road plant, comprised 1.5-tonne blocks. It gave way just before 9am on 7 July, causing tonnes of scrap metal behind it to fall on top.
This latest fatal injury rate is 7% lower than the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average rate of 0.52 per 100,000 workers (155 deaths).These figures indicate that the downward trend of workplace deaths – which has more than halved over the last 20 years – is levelling off, the HSE said.The 2015-16 statistics, which cover the 12 months from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, are provisional and will be finalised in July next year. This means that the figure of 144 could change.
On the day of the accident a ship delivered frozen fish to Interfish’s Plymouth factory. The shrink-wrapped pallets (each weighing approximately one tonne) were moved by forklift into one of the company’s cold stores. A stack of pallets collapsed after one of the forklift truck drivers noticed it was unsteady and tried to stabilise it by pushing it backwards. No one was injured in this initial fall and three employees were sent into the cold store area to tidy up the fallen boxes.
He said: “Vehicle-related accidents are a significant problem in agriculture and one of the biggest killers. Only people who are trained and capable should operate all-terrain vehicles [ATVs] like quad bikes. Every year, on average, we see two deaths and numerous injuries involving ATVs.”Brunt’s call comes after a teenage farmworker was left seriously injured in a quad bike accident.