A firm specialising in the manufacture of wooden doors and windows has been fined for safety failings after a worker died at its Leyton premises. A 55-year-old Polish national, had been with M M Contracting Ltd for only 10 days when he attempted to help his son, also an employee, to remove a large board from the middle of a pile stacked upright against a wall in the workshop at Leyton.
The company’s usual system for doing this was for one employee to stand in front of the stack, taking the weight of the unwanted boards on his hands, while a fellow worker pulled out the chosen one from the side. Unfortunately, as the worker tried to support the weight of the leaning wooden panels they toppled over, crushing him and causing fatal head injuries.
We have to ask why is it this and many companies risk assessments fail to identify what was obviously an accident waiting to happen? All too often it’s because the risk assessment process really isn`t understood by those who are asked to do the risk assessments. The simple failure is to provide proper training such as can be found in the IOSH Managing Safely course.
When the HSE investigated the incident they found that the company did not have a safe system of work for the storage or retrieval of boards. They also identified that storing the boards flat on the floor or using a simple purpose-built racking system would have greatly reduced the risk of injury.
These controls do not have to be expensive and would have saved this man’s life. Add to this that a well thought out risk assessment will challenge the way work is organised and undertaken and will often identify better and more efficient ways of doing the work.
After sentencing, the HSE inspector commented that “This was a death waiting to happen. Incidents such as this are still a common occurrence in the industry despite the existence of guidance from the HSE offering simple, inexpensive solutions for stacking wood safely.”
M M Contracting Ltd, of London E17 4PX, pleaded guilty and the company was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay £9,000 in costs. Surely, allocating resources for training and risk assessment would have been far less costly to all.