An engineering firm has been fined after an accident at work incident in which a worker suffered life-changing injuries.
On 10 June 2015 Felix Trefas, a welder for F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd (FBR), was putting together large steel reinforcing cages. Once completed, the cages were to be moved overhead using large travelling cranes.
On the day of the incident, one of the overhead cranes broke down. Mr Trefas was then asked by another colleague to climb more than six metres up the crane support column to reset the controls. As he was doing so, his left leg came into contact with another overhead crane. As a result he suffered crush injuries to his leg and required amputation below the knee.
Health & safety breaches
Southen-on-Sea Magistrates’ Court heard how the overhead cranes had been poorly maintained; meaning workers often had to work at height to reset the controls. The court also heard, as was the case with Mr Trefas, during night shifts workers would often climb up the crane support column.
Despite toilets and washing facilities at the site having previously been subject to enforcement action by HSE, they were found in a very poor and dirty condition.
Sentencing & fines
In his summing up, the District Judge said that this “horrific accident should never have happened”. He added that FBR “should have had systems in place” to detect that dangerous access to the cranes was regularly occurring.
F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd of Romainville Way, Charfleets Industrial Estate, Canvey Island pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company also pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of Regulation 4 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
FBR were fined a total of £277,000 for the first breach and a single fee of £5,000 in relation to the other two breaches. The company were also ordered to pay costs of £11,904 and a £120 victim surcharge.
HSE Inspector Sue Matthews said after the hearing:
“It is essential that lifting equipment is properly maintained and that safe systems of work are in place for work at height. Employers have a duty to ensure that welfare facilities are kept clean.
“Felix is incredibly lucky that he was not killed in this incident but he has suffered permanent life-changing injuries. This preventable workplace accident has changed the life of a previously fit and hard-working young man irrevocably.”
Accident at work – expert advice
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