Demolition company fined £15,000 after electrician seriously injured in five met

Thursday, 4th Sep '08 at 10:27

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning companies to take risk assessments seriously and to ensure that measures identified to control risks are properly implemented, after a demolition company was prosecuted this week over a workplace injury.

Wooldridge Ecotec Ltd of London Road, Bagshot, Surrey, was fined £15,000 and £4971 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Nicholas Anderson, one of the company directors, was fined £5000 and £1657 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Act. Both companies were sentenced at the City of London Magistrates Court.

The prosecution was brought by the HSE following an incident on 11 March, 2005. Electrician, Barry Murrell, was seriously injured at the former Pirelli Cables factory at Church Manorway, Erith, after falling more than five metres. His injuries included a broken pelvis, fracture to his right hip, a shattered hip socket and a broken rib.

On 12 December 2005 Biagio Malacaria, a mechanic employed by Alexanders, was working on a car’s fuel system, which involved draining fuel from the vehicle. During this process, his overalls were set alight and he was engulfed in flames. The flames were extinguished by two colleagues, one of whom was also injured in the process. Mr Malacaria was taken to The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, but died from pneumonia as a result of his injuries on 6 January 2006.

HSE inspector, Loraine Charles, said:

"Mr Murrell’s injuries were very serious, but the consequences could have been far worse. The risks of falls from height on this demolition project and the measures needed to control those risks had been identified on more than one occasion; Wooldridge simply failed to implement the necessary measures. The director, Mr Anderson, had personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding or leading to this accident and he failed to take obvious steps to prevent it."

Mr Murrell had entered the Pirelli tower, which was being prepared for explosive demolition, to reclaim some electrical cable for reuse elsewhere on the site. He and a colleague were on the first floor when he stepped on some steel sheet material, which was covering a hole, and it fell away beneath him.  Mr Murrell landed on the ground floor 5.5m below.

The HSE investigation found that Wooldridge Ecotec Ltd had produced a health and safety plan containing risk assessments that identified appropriate measures, and there was an inspection by a Wooldridge’s Health and Safety Advisor. Nicholas Anderson was declared responsible for health and safety on the Pirelli site and for carrying out risk assessments for subcontracted work. Mr Anderson did not carry out any risk assessments for the electricians, nor did he instruct anyone to carry them out on his behalf.  Wooldridge Ecotec Ltd did not take effective steps to control risks to subcontracted electricians, or prevent access to the tower once conditions within it had become hazardous.  The company did not implement the findings of a previous risk assessment, for work being carried out by subcontracted electricians, particularly in respect of reclaiming the cable from the tower; or provide them with the appropriate information, instruction and supervision in respect of the changing conditions within the tower.

  1. Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 says:  "Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work."
  2. Further information on risk assessments can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/fivesteps.htm
  3. The maximum fine for a breach of the HSWA in the Magistrates Court is a fine not exceeding £20,000.
  4. Public enquiries: HSE's InfoLine: 0845 3450055
    Caerphilly Business Park, Caerphilly CF83 3GG
    HSE information and news releases can be accessed on the Internet http://www.hse.gov.uk
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