Companies sentenced over worker injury

Published:  11 January, 2016

Two companies - Rehau Ltd and Hughes Specialist Transport Ltd - have been fined after a worker suffered serious head injuries when he fell during loading operations.

Rehau Ltd, based in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, produces extruded plastic products including insulated pipe and window frames.

Mold Magistrates Court heard that, on 2 August 2013, Rehau's haulage contractor Hughes Specialist Transport Ltd, was jointly engaged in loading large coils of Rauvitherm insulated pipe onto a curtain-sided lorry with a fork lift truck.

The lorry driver, who was aged 20 at the time of the accident, had only recently been employed by Hughes Specialist Transport Ltd.

Due to historic damage to the coils when they were loaded flat, a method had evolved whereby the coils were loaded 'on edge.' This required the driver to be in close proximity to the suspended load, to place chocks of timber for support before the load could be secured.

On the day of the accident, the Rehau fork lift truck driver lifted a coil to load it onto the lorry. As the visiting driver positioned himself to place the chocks, the load toppled, carrying the driver onto the floor of the yard at Rehau's site at Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd.

The driver suffered several fractures to his skull, an extradural haematoma and required an operation to remove a blood clot.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and determined that the specific task had not been risk assessed. There was also inadequate co-operation and communication between the two parties for this high-risk operation.

HSE guidance (A Guide to Workplace Transport Safety HSG 136), states that at shared workplaces, the site operator or main employer should normally take responsibility for co-ordinating health and safety measures. Post-accident, Rehau Ltd devised the solution of constructing purpose-built stillages to load the coils at ground level, before loading them onto the lorry flatbed, thus avoiding the need to work at height.

At Caernarfon Crown Court where the matter was referred for sentencing, Rehau Ltd of Hill Court, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, admitted breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £60,000. Hughes Specialist Transport Ltd, of Gwaith Setts Madog Quarry, Manod Road, Blaenau Ffestiniog Gwynedd, admitted breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £6,000.

The companies were ordered to pay an equal share of the £8,368 total costs.

In a statement, Rehau said: "Rehau would like to emphasise that we cooperated fully with the HSE at all stages of this investigation. We admitted responsibility for our part in the incident very promptly and acted within days to agree a new procedure with the HSE. As a major employer, REHAU takes health and safety very seriously at all of our plants around the world, and we put considerable effort not just into complying with the necessary legislation but also into proactive health and safety management; even when that means there's a significant financial cost to the business.

"We accept that in this matter we have fallen short of our normally very high standards, but we acted quickly to correct that. This was an extremely rare lapse and one which certainly doesn't reflect our corporate culture or our policies and procedures.

"Within REHAU, we provide regular and appropriate health and safety training to all our staff and everyone is actively encouraged to notify their appointed health and safety representatives of any concerns they might have. Above all, REHAU remains a responsible employer and will continue to work hard to make a positive contribution in all of the communities in which we operate."

 

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