Construction Worker Psychologically Scarred After Tower Crane Terror

Irwin Mitchell Urges Firms To Keep Employees Safe


Lawyers representing a construction worker left psychologically and emotionally drained by a five-hour ordeal in which he was left hanging from a collapsed crane has urged companies using such equipment to follow the correct safety procedures.

Workplace injury specialists at Irwin Mitchell are making the call after helping Paul Baxter, aged 32 from Castleford, West Yorkshire, access the care and rehabilitation he needed to help begin the process of rebuilding his life following the traumatic incident in June 2007.

Paul was looking forward to a bright new future as a trainee tower crane erector when he started working for Select Plant Hire Company Limited . He explained: “I had only just been taken on by the company and was excited about the prospect of getting my teeth into the new role. I felt like I had a really great opportunity.”

On 2nd June 2007 he and his team had been instructed to climb a tower crane in Croydon in order to attach a frame to the existing structure and increase its height – despite the fact they had received no training on the procedure.

However, disaster struck when part of the tower crane collapsed and fell into a nearby hotel, causing major damage to several floors. While emergency services got to the seriously injured crane driver in around an hour, reaching Paul and several of his colleagues at a height of about 200ft was not as easy.

The emergency services were concerned about causing the remaining section of the crane to collapse, which meant that Paul and several of his colleagues were left hanging for over five hours before the emergency services were able to bring them down safely.

Discussing the terrifying wait, Paul said: “Considering the collapse and the damage it caused, it was almost unbearable hanging on to the remaining part of the tower without knowing whether I was going to live or die.

“Just thinking back to it sends me into a nervous panic. It was truly the most terrifying moment of my entire life and seemed to last forever. Finally getting back to the ground was a massive relief, but by then the damage had been done.”

Paul’s employer was ordered to pay a £100,000 fine and costs over the incident, after a criminal prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive highlighted that the firm had contravened safety regulations and breached their duty of care.

However, the incident had already taken its psychological toll on Paul. Unable to return to work, his relationship with his family broke down and he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The time immediately after the collapse was deeply distressing, so in a way it was a relief when I was diagnosed with a condition. It meant I was able to tackle my demons head-on and look to move forward in my life,” he explained.

Irwin Mitchell issued proceedings on behalf of Paul and the law firm secured a rehab programme paid for by Select Plant Hire Limited’s Insurers. In addition, a successful claim was settled for a six-figure sum three years after the incident took place. Paul is now hopeful of returning to full-time work in the near future.

Nicola Handley, a legal executive at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office who represents the client, said: “Paul’s story is an undoubtedly terrifying one and it is completely understandable why it has had such a dramatic effect on his day-to-day life.

“However, perhaps the worst aspect is that the story is one that should have never emerged in the first place, as the employer should have been doing everything in its power to stay true to its general duty towards staff.”

“So many of the cases we deal with highlight the physical damage caused by accidents, but the emotional and psychological impact can often be completely underestimated. Lessons must be learnt from this terrifying case to ensure that no one else suffers in a similar manner ever again.

“It is so welcome that Paul is on the road to recovery, but this case goes some way to showing just how important it is for companies to follow all safety guidance when it comes to their workers.”