Worker’s Gruesome One Ton Crushing Incident

An Incident like this is far to common place the enabling of an employee to be injured in such as way shouldnt ever be a possible. A Suffolk-based scaffolding firm that pleaded guilty to multiple safety failings has been fined. Alongside being ordered to pay more than £515k after one of its employees sustained a life-changing crush injury.

The Incident

The employee sustained the injury while helping a colleague to move a bundle of steel using a forklift truck at Brisko Scaffolding’s site on the Sproughton Road in Ipswich on 21 November 2019. The bundle of steel, which weighed around 1.1 MT, toppled over, crushing his leg.

The incident had been correctly reported in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) and accepted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the enforcing authority.

After the employee provided further details about the accident, a prohibition notice was served in March 2020 to prevent whole stacks of steel bundles from being moved in one go. 

The improvement notice stated that the company must carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment on the construction and deconstruction of the steel stacks. 

What enabled the incident?

Brisko Scaffolding entered an appeal to the prohibition notice claiming that its employees did not move whole stacks in one go. However, both the injured person and the other forklift driver had issued statements to the contrary. Noting that the business had continued to work using this unsafe practice and when Brisko Scaffolding was shown the evidence, the business withdrew the appeal.

Despite this action, the company continued to maintain this unsafe working practice and Babergh DC filed a prosecution case in the summer of 2021, which related to four safety failures.  

The first was a failure to provide a safe system of work as required by section 2(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 (HSWA), which related to having a safe system in place for the building or removal of the steel stacks. 

The second was a failure to provide adequate instruction, supervision or training as required by section 2(2)(c) of the HSWA.

The third was a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment as required by regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Finally, the company had failed to comply with the prohibition notice, contrary to section 33(1)(g) of the HSWA. 

Repercussions and Fines

Brisko Scaffolding pleaded guilty to all four charges on 9 December 2021 and the culpability level was high as the organisation fell far short of industry standards and the breaches had persisted over many years.

Harm was agreed to be Level A with a medium likelihood of harm occurring – or harm category 2, which gave the starting point for a fine at £1.1m, with a range of £550,000 to £2.9m. The district judge decided to take £700,000 as the starting point. 

There were no statutory aggravating features but other aggravating features included the company’s breach of the prohibition notice, which increased the starting point to £900,000. 

As Brisko Scaffolding had a good health and safety record and had put some important changes in place since the investigation the starting point was reduced to £750,000. 

At this stage, the court had to step back and consider whether the starting point was appropriate given the company’s financial situation. It also had to reflect on the seriousness of the charges and whether the starting point was fair and proportionate. 

The district judge determined that there was no reason to increase or decrease the starting point because Brisko Scaffolding was solvent. 

After taking into account the one third discount for the early guilty pleas, the district judge ordered Brisko Scaffolding to pay a total fine of £500,000 plus £15,527 in costs

Addressing the issue

Brisko Scaffolding says that after the incident it replaced its external health and safety consultants and appointed a full-time health and safety manager with more than 30 years’ experience, an operations training manager and a training supervisor. 

The firm has also appointed a dedicated site-based health and safety assistant who is tasked with undertaking a continuous and thorough review. This is around the way in which the business manages its on-site activities, particularly in regard to health and safety.

In a statement, Brisko Scaffolding said: ‘The business considers the health and safety of its customers and employees as its top priority at all times. The company is dedicated and committed to investing in the training of its employees and fostering a positive health and safety culture across the business. 

‘Brisko Scaffolding and everyone connected with the company deeply regrets the accident in November 2019 and the injury suffered by a longstanding and valued colleague.’

My Professional Opinion

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Safe working practices, established through suitable and sufficient risk assessments must be put in place for everyone’s protection. These assessments and method statements should be produced in conjunction with, and co-operation of any employees who are likely to be affected by the operation or task being risk assessed. They should be freely available and reviewed at regular intervals or if there are any changes to the operation or task.

We all have a duty to not only ensure our own health and safety but that of our colleagues. Positive and impactful working culture should also be encouraged whereby employees feel able to speak up about any concerns they may have.

If you have any questions relating to this or any health and safety concerns, I’d be more than happy to have a discussion.

Another Health and safety article is available here!

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Steve Kilburn
I initially trained as an industrial chemist working in a variety of manufacturing environments eventually moving into quality management which grew to encompass environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. I hold a Masters Degree in Health and Safety law and Environmental Law and a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Waste Management and I am a Graduate Level Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). In my spare time I enjoy reading, my favourite author is Stephen King, and listening to music, generally from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
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