Dudley steel company fined after worker killed by crane

1 February 2013

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A West Midlands steel company has been ordered to pay more than GBP 146,000 (USD 231,125) in fines and costs after one of its employees was crushed to death by a 15t crane, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced recently.

Wilfred Williams, 57, of Tividale, Warley, was carrying out maintenance on an overhead travelling crane at C Brown & Sons (Steel) Ltd in Pedmore Road, when the incident occurred on 27 May 2011. Williams was working 6.5m from the ground and stepped from the gantry he was working on to the rail of an adjacent crane and sat down. At this point the neighbouring crane was moved by an operator who had not seen Williams and he was crushed against an upright stanchion.

An investigation by HSE found Williams and a fellow maintenance worker had accessed the cranes via a cherry picker. The second worker remained in the basket while Williams stepped onto the rail of the crane he was fixing. Williams wasn't wearing a harness, there was no other fall protection, and there was no safe system of work at height to prevent crush injuries or falls, HSE stated.

C Brown & Sons was fined GBP 120,000 (USD 189,965) after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Wolverhampton Crown Court. The company was also ordered to pay GBP 26,552 (USD 42,032) in costs.

Speaking after the hearing in mid-December 2012, HSE inspector Angela Gallagher said: ³This tragic incident, which has had a devastating effect on Mr Williams¹s family, was entirely preventable.

³Documents show the company had been aware of the risks for some time. A system to prevent falls from height - a line system whereby workers wearing a harness could clip onto the line - was being considered and an order was about to be placed at the time of the incident. However, the company had not put interim measures in place to prevent falls nor adequately assessed the risk of maintenance staff being crushed by moving cranes.

"The risks of working at height, especially around cranes, are very real and companies must have safe work procedures in place and train employees to use them. They myst also have appropriate management systems in place to ensure they are followed."