A Kent-based company has been prosecuted for serious safety breaches after exposing workers to unnecessary dangers.
Images of the risks facing agency workers at the Chatham Docks’ berth of
European Active Projects Ltd were captured on camera on 19 February 2014 by a member of the public and sent to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The photos showed a man working on a stacked container some nine metres from the ground at one end, but directly above the sea at the other end. Despite the height, there was nothing in place to prevent a fall or to mitigate the effect of a fall from the edges of the containers.
Medway Magistrates’ Court (6 Jan) heard that the company, a marine and industrial contractor, had been erecting the containers in the days leading up to the incident to enable a client to run a simulated, offshore fire evacuation drill.
HSE’s investigation found a risk assessment and a method of working had been provided by the company. These had stated that each container would be secured by an operator working from a mobile boom and wearing a fall arrest harness.
However, the company failed to source a boom in time and then neglected the need to review the working method to identify how the workers could access the containers safely without it. Agency workers ended up using unfooted, unsecured ladders to access the containers. As they were still in motion while being landed, it made their work even more perilous.
HSE told the court that only a month or so earlier, in December 2013, European Active Projects had received written advice after investigating a serious incident involving a lifting operation. HSE advised the company then that it needed to improve the planning and organisation of its lifting operations, particularly with regard to supervising agency workers.
European Active Projects Ltd, of Chatham Docks, Gillingham Gate, Kent, was fined a total of £15,000 with £917 in costs after admitting breaching the Work at Height Regulations and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Joanne Williams said:
“The dangers of falling, and quite possibly sustaining fatal injuries, were very real and highlighted quite dramatically in the photos that were taken.
“The company had a plan but then totally ignored it as soon as it became clear a mobile boom couldn’t be sourced in time. It failed to provide any suitable measures to make sure the container structure could be erected safely and allowed dangerous practices to take place on site.
“European Active Projects’ failings were compounded by the lifting accident that had occurred recently and our advice should still have been ringing in their ears!”
Advice on both work at height and lifting operations is available on HSE’s website at http://www.hse.gov.uk
Notes to Editors:
Photo shows the containers dockside and the scale of the potential fall for the workers
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
- Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
- Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is (a) properly planned by a competent person; (b) appropriately supervised; and (c) carried out in a safe manner.”