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Working at height

Inappropriate working at height method led to serious injuries

Two demolition workers were seriously injured when they fell from an attachment on an excavator. Was this a safe method for them to access areas at height?

Cheshire Demolition and Excavation Contractors Limited (CDEC Ltd) was engaged to demolish a derelict nightclub in Cheshire.

Two of its employees climbed into a pick bin attached to an excavator so they could be lifted up to carry out work at height. The pick bin suddenly released from the arm of the excavator, ejecting the two employees from the bin. They fell onto a pile of bricks and rubble, sustaining serious injuries. One worker broke his back and the other fractured his skull.

The HSE’s investigation discovered that there was a more appropriate means of lifting the workers available, a scissor lift, but CDEC Ltd had decided to remove it from site before the incident occurred. This left the workers with no other means of accessing areas at height. The company therefore did not properly plan the work and failed to provide suitable access equipment.

CDEC Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching its general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees at work under s.2(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £134,000 and ordered to pay over £6,300 in costs.

As part of their duty to plan lifting operations properly, employers must select the appropriate type of lifting equipment for the job in hand. In this case, the scissor lift would have been a safer option than an excavator fitted with a pick bin.

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