Engineering Firm Prosecuted Over Worker Crush Injuries

Large Fine Follows Accident With Fan Unit


An engineering firm has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an incident in which a large fan unit fell on a member of staff.

Hemel Hempstead-based Wilden Services Limited was taken to court over the case of a 54-year-old, who does not wish to be named, who suffered multiple injuries as the company was carrying out sub-contractor work to install a new ventilation system in the new head office for the World Wildlife Fund in December 2012.

The 630kg fan unit was being moved on a pallet truck when it fell, pinning the worker to the ground and causing him to suffer spinal injuries that led to him being off sick for several weeks.

An HSE investigation found that a better and safer system of work could have prevented the accident from occurring.

HSE inspector Dennis Bodger remarked: "The employee was seriously injured and could have been paralysed had his spinal cord been damaged by the falling unit.

"Companies should always ensure that extreme care is taken when moving heavy items, and that includes properly assessing the risks in advance and agreeing a safe system of work.

"The incident was entirely avoidable with better planning and management."

Wilden Services acknowledged its failings as it pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £15,000 with £7,148 in costs.

Section 3(1) of the act states that employees should ensure that staff and contractors are not exposed to danger in the course of their work "so far as is reasonably practicable".

HSE guidance on risk assessments recommends that these are carried out in five stages. The first of these is to identify the hazards and the second is to work out who is at risk of being harmed. The third task is to evaluate the risks, followed by a recording of the findings and, finally, a review of the assessment to check it has captured all the issues at hand.

Expert Opinion
We are pleased that Wilden Services admitted its failings but ultimately this incident should never have happened.

“It is vital that companies follow health and safety recommendations when workers are expected to lift and move heavy objects.

“Through our daily work we see the devastating consequences of these guidelines not being followed, which can result in permanent or debilitating injuries for workers.

“We hope that lessons are learnt from the HSE prosecution by employers to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to protect their workers from a similar unnecessary injury.”
Stephen Nye, Partner