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"Unsafe" working methods condemned after falling pipe paralyses worker

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
19th April 2017
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An Essex company has been hit with a £200,000 fine for health and safety breaches after an employee suffered life changing injuries while connecting gas pipes.

Maidstone Crown Court was told that the employee was working in a trench connecting new pipes to existing ones. One end of a new pipe was being lifted by an excavator while the other end rested on packing timber, supported by a narrow piece of tarmac across the trench.

The tarmac gave way and the 12 metre, 440kg pipe landed on the man in the trench, causing injuries including a fractured spine. He is now paralysed below the waist.

Prosecuting barrister Vivek D’Cruz said the timber was part of the packing in which the pipes had been delivered and was not designed to support the pipes. In fact the support method, which had been improvised by the workers, “had occurred many times before the incident...and had gone unchallenged by anyone at Forefront Utilities....On some occasions this unsafe procedure was done in the sight of management".

Forefront Utilities Limited, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work at Act and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £56,686. An HSE investigation into the incident, which occurred on 23 May 2014, found that the method for jointing newly laid sections of pipe to previously laid pipe was unsafe. 

After the hearing HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented".

Phoenix offers a range of suitable courses, approved by NEBOSH, IOSH and Construction Safety Plus, helping every kind of company to avoid such incidents by keeping its management and workforce up to speed on health and safety regulations and procedures.