Real-life H&S incidents

Demolition company and director sentenced after worker injured

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
6th November 2017
wrecking ball

A demolition company and its director have been sentenced after a worker suffered crush injuries when his arms were trapped between two 10 tonne steel girders.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how an employee of S. Evans and Sons Limited was injured when the managing director, who was operating machinery to stack the girders, dropped one of the girders onto the employee’s arms, resulting in amputation to the employee’s left arm and right hand. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, which occurred on the 19 October 2015, found the company failed to apply appropriate control measures including ensuring the right equipment for the task was used. The managing director, Samuel Evans, was directly involved in the incident and found personally responsible for both the choice in equipment and the manner in which the task was performed. S. Evans and Sons Limited of Ditton Road, Widnes pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. 

The company has been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,523.04 Company director, Samuel Evans, pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, in relation to the company’s failing of Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Samuel Evans was sentenced to ten months imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. 

HSE inspector Rohan Lye said after the hearing:

“If the company and its director had taken basic steps to decide how to do this routine task, and what control measures to use, they could have prevented this devastating incident resulting in an employee suffering life-changing injuries.”

Phoenix comments: 

Mr Whitfield, the 63 year old employee, spent two and a half months in hospital following the accident. His left arm had to be amputated below the elbow and all the fingers on his right hand had to be amputated. He will need care for the rest of his life. The incident occurred when Mr Whitfield returned form lunch and noticed one of the sleepers had smashed and Evans instructed him to remove it and replace it with wooden blocks. The blocked were smaller, which meant Mr Whitfield had to go underneath the suspended girder in order to position them properly. Mr Whitfield had protested because he felt the blocks were unsuitable and was told to continue by Mr Evans. The girder then fell onto him as Evans lifted it on one side. Mr Whitfield had worked for the company for over 20 years, Judge Trevor Jones stated that the company had a very good safety record, with employees trained, robust management system and suitable equipment available. 

However, there were reports of “a autocratic and bullying attitude” towards staff. He said: “You are prepared to cut corners to speed up the process. You overruled Mr Whitfield’s concerns that he was being told to use unsuitable materials. “I consider that you are someone with two sides - one of being a proud man but one with a sense of infallibility and used to getting his own way.”