Two firms, one of which is in administration, have been fined a combined £120,000 after a groundworker suffered severe injuries when heavy drainage pipes fell on top of him.
Anthony Pennell, who worked for R O’Donnell Plant & Civil, sustained several fractures to both sides of his pelvis, as well as a fractured vertebrae and bleed on the spine, in the incident at a site in Lichfield, Staffordshire, on 3 September 2019.
The pipes, each weighing around 160kg, had been suspended on the forks of a telehandler while being moved around the site.
When the telehandler came to a stop, Pennell tried to reposition a dangling skid so that the pack could be lowered properly. However, the load fell on top of him.
R O’ Donnell and main contractor Readie Construction have both been fined over the incident, according to a statement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). R O’ Donnell went into administration in March.
HSE investigators found that both R O’Donnell and Readie failed to ensure that the operation was properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner.
The investigation also identified issues in relation to the level of knowledge and experience of those involved in the lifting operations, and in the companies’ overall management and coordination of the telehandler usage between contractors, the HSE said.
Pennell spent nine days in hospital after the 2019 incident. In a statement issued through the HSE, he said: “I had to sleep downstairs for about five months after the accident and I could only use the downstairs toilet.”
For two weeks after he came home, his partner had to help him with basic activities like washing and changing his clothes. He will never be able to return to his job as a groundworker.
“I continue to have pain in my right leg,” he said in the statement. “I am no longer as strong as I was and can no longer carry out heavy manual activities.
“I will always be at a disadvantage in the labour market, and cannot see how I could get a job again where I would earn the money that I was earning as a groundworker.”
At Telford Magistrates’ Court, R O’Donnell Plant & Civil Ltd, of Brigg, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to breaching section 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. It was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,784.
Readie Construction Ltd, of Romford, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching the same section of the regulations and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,784.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Will Gretton said: “This horrific incident could easily have been avoided had the work been properly planned and suitable control measures implemented to properly secure and safely transport the load.
“This case should remind all on construction sites and wider industry that all lifting operations must be properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner to ensure the health and safety of those involved or affected by the work.”