A 37 year old father of one was working alone, operating for the first time a computer that controlled a large saw. His task was to separate 16 metre (52 feet) long H-beams, which were stacked ready to be put onto the conveyor feeding a sawing machine.
One end of the beam had already been lifted by an overhead crane to allow the worker to place two timber load bearers in the middle while he positioned himself between the columns to pull the hoist chains through. During the operation the load bearers gave way causing the top column to fall on top of the worker who suffered fatal injuries.
A Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the employers had not put in place a safe system of work and were negligent in failing to provide any training for the specific task or instructions on how to safely separate and lift the steel H-beams.
Supervision would have prevented the employee from losing his life
After the hearing, a HSE inspector said the “tragic” loss of life could have been avoided if the company had adequately planned the task, which expected a number of employees to separate large steel columns at waist height.
A risk assessment would have identified the risk of the beams falling. The safest method to ensure there was no risk of an accident would have been to separate the beams at floor level or in a purpose built rack before placing them on the conveyor table.
A properly planned and appropriately supervised lifting operation, accompanied by adequate employee training, would have prevented the employee from losing his life.
The company defendants pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety at work legislation. They were fined a total of £112,500 and ordered to pay £96,000 inc. costs.