Monday, October 23, 2017

"(worker) was wearing a harness...not attached to anything..."

The demolishing or tearing down of equipment or structures in our industry is a common. Typically this work is performed by outside contractors. Here is a followup to a story the APSB had posted a few years ago. Here it is:

A construction company has been found guilty of flouting health and safety laws after a worker was killed during demolition work. The jury at the United Kingdom Court heard the construction company played a “game of Russian roulette” with the health and safety of workers at the aluminium recycling plant in the summer 2015.

Workers were dismantling a steel hopper at the factory when it collapsed causing one worker, to fall head first to the ground. The worker suffered serious injuries and died as a result.

During the four-day trial prosecutor told the jury there was a “total absence of planning” by the firm on how the firm was going to demolish the hopper. “It was a game of Russian roulette. The hopper was going to collapse at some stage. The question was who it was going to injure,” he said.

He said the worker was wearing a harness but this was not attached to anything. The prosecutor said there was nowhere to fix the harness but in any event the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found it to be unsuitable for the task.

“There were critical defects, the carabina (metal clip) was heavily corroded and the locking mechanism was seized and it was effectively useless,” he told the jury. The prosecutor added that the company had a legal requirement to ensure the safety of their workers and others on site.

“The hazards of working in the demolition industry are well known and documented and there was a lot of guideance and regulations to ensure the work is carried out as safely as possible. “The HSE investigation found a total absence of planning for the removal of the hopper. The company employees were left to get on with the job,” he said.

The construction company were found guilty of two charges of failing to ensure their workers, and other workers, were not exposed to risk. The company did not attend the trial nor any of the preliminary hearings. Following the verdict the prosecutor said HSE officials would write to the company to inform them of the outcome and to remind it of its duty to provide details of its financial standing.

“They face a financial penalty based on their turnover and it only fair their be given an opportunity to provide those details,” he said. Agreeing to adjourn the matter the Judge said: “It says a lot about our legal system that we are prepared to bend over backwards to assist a company who have chosen not to attend these proceedings.”

The Aluminium Plant Safety Blog offers our sincere condolences to the deceased worker’s family, friends and coworkers. It was dumbfounding that the construction company was not present at the trial. 

We have posted similar incidents where a workers safety harness was not attached to a fixed location. In this incident it appears the workers safety harness was not attached to anything. Many of our plants are at a disadvantage when dealing with an outside contractor regarding the removal or demolition of a structure on their premises. Why? Because all too often our personnel have little to no experience regarding the hazards associated with demolition. So, instead of our personnel instructing or telling the contractor of the hazards. The contractor tells our personnel of the hazards. That lack of knowledge by our personnel can have terrible consequences. If you feel your plant is unqualified to assess the hazards associated with the removal or demolition of a structure a consultant/expert should be hired.

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