A driver working for a Dorset contractor lost his entire index finger, half of his middle finger and severed the end of his ring finger on his right hand in an incident on a construction site near Barnet.
The man had been using unsafe wheel cleaning equipment at a golf driving range undergoing renovation and after the accident the hospital were not able to reattach the fingers, leaving him with permanent injuries.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that he was attempting to use a wheel spinner, which removes mud and debris from vehicles before they access public roads. However, the equipment at the site, operated by Poole-based principal contractor Woodland Environmental Ltd, was in poor working order and had been adapted, which forced drivers to adopt an unsafe way of using it.
An investigation by the HSE identified that a rope was held taut to hold a brake lever in position, and that as the driver attempted to release this it caught and severed his fingers.
The rope had been attached to the brake lever for several months and had no place on the equipment. The condition of the wheel spinner was the responsibility of Woodland Environmental, but their management systems for monitoring equipment and procedures proved inadequate. Once again, had the company considered the requirements of PUWER in an assessment then this could have been avoided.
The trouble in these types of cases is that the equipment is on-site away from the main premises and probably rarely even gets looked at by the company. Unfortunately, the employees using the equipment tend not to report back on the condition and therefore it doesn’t get picked up until something goes wrong; or until someone like MESH is asked to undertake a site inspection.
Woodland Environmental Ltd, of Poole, was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £8,833 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Just think how much better it would have been to have had a proactive approach to identifying when things are not right; and obviously much cheaper – both financially and in terms of reputation.
In fact the HSE Inspector commented that businesses that provide work equipment need to take effective steps to ensure that it continues to function properly, and to ensure that it is not subject to clumsy, make-do adaptations – as was the case here.
We carry out both site inspections and specific PUWER assessments for businesses that work on-site across the UK so if you need help why not talk to MESH. Surely it’s better than having to talk to the HSE or the Judge?