Firm is fined £30k for safety breach

The culvert in Rother Valley Park where the accident happened on 1st August last year
The culvert in Rother Valley Park where the accident happened on 1st August last year

A firm has been fined £30,000 after an accident at Rother Valley Country Park left an employee with life-changing injuries.

Donald Offord, from Rothwell, near Leeds, was felled by a seven-metre sheet pile as he worked on 1st August last year.

He was one of a team employed by Coopers Civil Engineering to refurbish a collapsed culvert.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the sheet pile came off the hook of an excavator as it was being lowered because a safety catch was missing. As it fell, it struck the 58-year-old on his side sending him spinning round to the ground.

He suffered a fractured skull and pelvis, snapped ribs and a punctured lung. Both thigh bones were broken and were repaired with steel pins.

He also sustained fractures to his jaw, cheekbone and foot and still needs physiotherapy to help him walk again.

The court heard the firm, appointed by Rotherham Council, was using an excavator to remove sheet piling installed around the culvert to prevent ground collapse.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the most likely cause was the inability of the hook to retain the chain because of the missing safety catch.

In addition, the firm failed to ensure there was an exclusion zone around the piling while it was being lifted out. Had there been one, employees would have been at a safe distance.

Coopers Civil Engineering of York was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £6,500 in costs for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Medani Close said: “This employee suffered life-changing injuries because his employer failed to devise a safe system of work for lifting out the sheet piles. The lift should never have been attempted using a hook with a missing safety catch.”

“Lifting operations can often put workers at great risk of injury, as well as incurring great costs when they go wrong.”