Company heavily fined after worker’s legs crushed in accident

hseA company in the south of England has been heavily fined by the courts after a worker’s legs were crushed in an industrial accident.

Secure Measures Limited was ordered to pay fines and costs amounting to £50,000 after a worker was trapped by a section of an old metal barge and suffered severe injuries to his legs.

Mr Lee Pownall was working for Secure Measures Limited as an engineer in November 2013 and had been instructed to dismantle an old metal barge in a dry dock in Erith, Kent. He was working with another worker making separate cuts in the same section of the barge. The other worker finished making the cuts to his section of the barge and his section broke apart. This led to the section that Mr Pownall was working on to fall away from the barge and onto him. The section of the barge trapped Mr Pownall’s legs, crushing them. He was rushed to hospital but subsequently had both his legs amputated above the knee.

The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) subsequently investigated the accident and found that there had been a number of health and safety breaches by Secure Measures Limited. Among other issues, the HSE found that Secure Measures Limited had carried out a risk assessment that identified measures that could control the risk associated with such work but that none of the control measures were followed. The HSE investigation recommended that Secure Measures Limited be prosecuted for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The case came to the Southwark Crown Court on 10 July 2015. Secure Measures Limited pleaded guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £42,000, as well as being ordered to pay £8,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Matt Raine commented after the judgment of the court: “I would hope this HSE prosecution, and the fine imposed by the court, will be a reminder to employers to ensure that work is always planned, risks are identified and where proportionate measures are identified that can reduce the risk, these are followed.”

Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers should always undertake risk assessments to ensure that any risks are identified and that measures are taken to protect against any dangers – a failure to do so by employers could potentially result in not only civil lawsuits but also criminal prosecutions, as in this case.”