Cherry picker pulled over during power line work

Grant Prior 10 years ago
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A West Yorkshire power distribution specialist has been fined after a worker suffered multiple fractures in a cherry picker fall in Hertfordshire.

Nicholas Chenery, 33, of Stowmarket, suffered a compound fracture to the left leg and three fractured vertebrae to his lower spine in the incident in the Buntingford area on 9 August 2012.

He required extensive surgery, including steel pins and skin grafts for his leg fracture and a back brace fitted for his fractured vertebrae, and may need a further operation on a displaced bone in his left ankle.

He was unable to work for several months, although he has now returned.

The Freedom Group of Companies Ltd (FGCL) was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found that more could and should have been done to prevent his fall.

Watford Magistrates’ Court heard that the company had been commissioned by a major energy network operator to replace overhead power lines and distribution poles between Cherry Green and Reed in Hertfordshire. The project started on 2 April 2012 and lasted 44 weeks.

On 9 August, FGCL employees, including Chenery, were rigging three overhead lines that were approximately 500 metres apart.

One line was already secured to a distribution pole and a second line was about to be secured.

The second line was secured to the bucket of a cherry picker that carried Chenery, and this was being raised to attach it to the pole.

At the same time, 500 metres away, the line was also being back-tensioned by a dumper truck.

The bucket was approximately 12 metres in the air when the dumper truck pulled the cherry picker over, causing the bucket to fall to the ground with Chenery still inside.

During their investigation, HSE inspectors found that FGCL had fallen well below their own in-house standards regarding the planning, managing and monitoring of such a routine operation.

The company had failed to plan and implement a clear and unambiguous communication system, which was an important element to the task as the two teams working on the project were separated by great distances.

FGCL also failed to ensure the operation was supervised effectively.

Freedom Group of Companies Ltd, of Tingley, West Yorks, was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £11,272 in costs after pleading guilty to a safety breach.

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, HSE Inspector John Berezansky, said:

“In this instance, the two teams involved in the task were separated by some 500 metres. Radios and mobile phones were provided; however the level of communication was poor and ambiguous, and the supervision of the task was sub-standard.

“FGCL should have ensured that the system they had in place was robust enough to deal with the risk.

“Without such a system in place, and in the absence of appropriate supervision, the workers became exposed to a much higher level of risk throughout the operation – especially Mr Chenery, who was in the most vulnerable position in the cherry picker bucket some 12 metres up in the air.

“He sustained serious injuries as a direct result of FGCL’s failure to manage the risks of this operation.”

The Freedom Group of Companies said: “We deeply regret the serious injury sustained to Nicholas Chenery on 12 August 2012, following the overturning of a Mobile Elevated Working Platform (MEWP) in which he was working while undertaking the stringing of an overhead electricity cable.

“Nick is a valued employee and FGC takes the safety of all employees as its main priority and does not put profit above safety in its priorities and obligations.

“Despite having robust and audited safety systems in place, the site management and the company, on the day, failed in its duty of care to Nick to implement a safe system of work.

“As a learning organisation, and since this incident, FGC has provided additional training in Health and Safety to all levels of management. FCG has also implemented mandatory Director and Senior Management operational site safety tours and audits to ensure safe systems of work.

“Company procedures are also being applied to drive behavioral improvements in the management of health and safety.

“Operational procedures have also been reviewed and improved to prevent any re-occurrence. These are on-going activities in a drive to achieve zero harm.”

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