A Nottingham plant hire company has been fined after a worker was crushed by a two-and-half tonne excavator during an unsafe cleaning operation.
The 40-year-old from Mansfield, who does not want to be named, suffered four fractures to his pelvis, dislocated his thumb and sustained soft tissue damage to his left hand and both legs in the incident at L & M Glazing Ltd in Bulwell in July 2012.
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard that the injured worker was cleaning an excavator that had been returned covered in dirt.
The work needed to be done quickly because the vehicle was due to be hired out again later the same day.
The excavator was positioned over a wash bay and raised off the ground by its hydraulic excavator arm and shovel blade, allowing the caterpillar tracks underneath to turn while they were sprayed with a jet washer.
Cable ties were used to lock controls in position and they were configured so that the tracks could spin while the cab was empty.
As the worker was cleaning near the excavator arm his foot became trapped under the moving track.
A colleague ran to his aid and, worried that he was being dragged closer to the machine, hit two side levers in the cab in a bid to help him escape.
However, this caused the vehicle to lurch forwards, which knocked him backwards before pinning and trapping him.
The worker was rescued after other colleagues used jacks to lift the vehicle.
HSE found there was no formal safe system of work for the cleaning task.
The court was told it was unsafe to work either beneath or immediately adjacent to an excavator when it is supported only by the bucket on the excavator arm and the shovel blade, and that had the work been better planned and managed then the incident could have been avoided.
L & M Glazing Ltd of Bulwell, Nottingham, was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay £6,400 in costs after pleading guilty to a safety breach.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Butter said: “The injured employee was put in serious danger and could have been killed because there was no safe method for cleaning the excavator.
“The machine manufacturer recommends jack-stands are used to hold it in place, and not to service or adjust the machine while the engine is running.
“That guidance was clearly ignored, and to have the engine running was both dangerous and unnecessary.
“Simply cleaning the tracks while the vehicle is stationary, then moving it to expose the unclean tracks and stopping it, before continuing to clean it, would have be the safest and simplest way of doing the work.
“L&M Glazing failed to manage the risks to its employees. Employers who neglect their duty to protect workers will continue to be held to account where they fail to do so.”
Source Construction Enquirer
Lighthouse Comments: It is hard to believe that someone could use cable ties to control an excavator and believe that it would be safe. It is also hard to believe that someone was able to do it! A formal Safe System of work is needed for all work activities to ensure that staff do not become injured. Get some help.