Company Fined After Worker Suffers Crush Injuries

Joinery Firm In Dock Over Avoidable Accident With Fibreboards


A company from Essex has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an incident in which one of its staff was crushed by falling fibreboards at its premises.

The accident caused a member of staff at Basildon-based Specialist Joinery Projects to suffer multiple crush injuries, which included two collapsed lungs, a broken collarbone, five broken ribs and a gashed head in September 2013. He was in hospital for two weeks and was only able to return to work in a limited capacity in January this year.

An HSE investigation found that the company could have taken steps to prevent the fibreboards, which collectively weighed half a tonne, falling on the 50-year-old man.

He had been working to cut the boards down to size, with the items leaning upright against racking. A suction effect caused as he moved one of them caused the boards to topple over and pin him to the floor until he was freed by colleagues. His fall also caused the gash to his head as he hit it against a stack of timber.

The HSE noted the boards could have been racked but were not.

Specialist Joinery Projects pleaded guilty at Basildon Magistrates Court to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £10,000 with costs of £598.

Commenting on the situation, HSE inspector Kim Tichias said: "The risks from falling timber and board material in the wood-working industry are well-known. There have been a number of incidents in recent years, including fatalities, where poorly-stored and unsecured boards have fallen on workers.

"Specialist Joinery Projects should have ensured boarding was secure and that there was a safe process for using and handling boarding for employees to follow." 

Measures such as racking are "simple and relatively inexpensive" to fit, the expert added.

The HSE has noted that woodworking has one of the highest accident rates of any industry in Britain.

Although a quarter of these are caused by machinery, the most recent figures from the body showed there are over 500 accidents a year involving slips, trips and falls.

Expert Opinion
This is shocking case but sadly one which is not uncommon, as we see numerous cases when people suffer life-changing injuries as a result of falling objects at work.

"We would urge all employers to take note of this case and ensure that clear health and safety lessons are learned from this, with the ultimate aim of ensuring such issues are not repeated in the future.

"There are too many occasions when people are injured as a result of safety failings which should have been avoided and it is vital that steps are taken to improve standards."
Stephen Nye, Partner