Water firm fined after man put in intensive care

Posted: Tuesday 23rd March 2010

Northumbrian Water has been ordered to pay more than £34,000 following the potentially fatal crushing of an employee.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Northumbrian Water Limited, who own and operate Essex and Suffolk Water, after they pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Northumbrian Water was fined 17,000 and ordered to pay full costs of 17,045.40 at Lowestoft Magistrate's Court. The prosecution follows an incident on 12 March 2008, where employee Robert Ayers, 38, from Lowestoft crushed between the loading bucket and cab of a construction vehicle. He spent three days in intensive care as a result.

Mr Ayers was driving a Bobcat skid steer loader at the company's Lound Water treatment works site. He got out of the vehicle with the engine running and as he was getting back into the driver's cab, he slipped and pressed the control to raise the vehicle's bucket. He was then trapped between the cab and the bucket, suffering crush injuries and permanent scarring.

Usually there is a device that stops the bucket being raised unless there is someone in the driving seat of the vehicle, but this was found to be faulty. Mr Ayers and other employees had also not received adequate training in the use of the vehicle.

Investigating HSE Inspector, Richard Hines said:

"Mr Ayers is very lucky to have escaped with his life from this incident because similar incidents with other companies have resulted in employees being crushed to death. It was a simple example of faulty equipment and insufficient training creating a potential disaster.

"This should serve as a serious warning to all companies that they must ensure the health and safety of their work force - it is their responsibility. HSE will not hesitate to take action against those who fall short of their duty - and the legal requirements - in such a way."

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