Surrey firm heavily fined after worker’s legs broken in workplace accident

by Redmans Solicitors on November 20, 2013

A Surrey-based building materials firm has been heavily fined after a worker broke both his legs in an accident at work.

Mr Martyn Powell, 41, worked for Ceme UK Materials Ltd, a building materials firm, when he suffered the workplace accident on 27 June 2012. Mr Powell was engaged in cleaning the metal track used for transporting skips on site at the time of the accident. In order to clean under the track it was lifted into the air by a hoist. However, the hoist jammed and Mr Powell attempted to lower the track by using a manual ratchet. Mr Powell was attempting to lever the ratchet when the hook broke, releasing the track, and the track suddenly fell onto Mr Powell, striking his legs. This resulted in both Mr Powell’s legs being broken and he was obliged to spend a week in hospital because of the accident. He was also unable to work for six months after the accident.

It is not currently known whether Mr Powell has or will claim personal injury as a result of his accident.

The Health and Safety Executive were subsequently informed of the accident and commenced an investigation into the matter. This investigation found that the company had failed to take adequate steps to implement or maintain workplace equipment and had not implemented a safe system of work to account for the fact that the workplace equipment could fail. The HSE investigation therefore recommended that the company be prosecuted for breaching health and safety regulations.

The case came before the Aylesbury Crown Court on 13 November 2013. Cemex UK Materials Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £35,000, as well as being ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs of £10,043.

Reports are unclear as to whether Cemex UK Materials Ltd instructed a firm of criminal defence solicitors to represent them in the case or whether they acted on their own behalf.

HSE Inspector Mr Karl Howes stated after the hearing: “Cemex UK Materials Ltd had not maintained the hoist properly and that led to it becoming jammed. All machinery must be maintained regularly to ensure it is safe to work with. It is not enough to rely on reactive maintenance and only fix things when they go wrong; companies should be looking for signs of wear and tear before any deterioration leads to an incident and possible injury.”

Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Businesses have obligations to their workers to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that they provide suitable workplace equipment and that the systems of work – or the failure to implement such – that they have in place do not endanger their workers. In this instance the court found that the company had failed to implement such measures, and that the failure to do so had caused a serious injury to a worker.”

Redmans are employment law solicitors and personal injury solicitors based in London

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