Network Rail has been fined £1.4 million for a health and safety breach after an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road.

ORR found failings that led to a worker being crushed between the conveyor of a 25 tonne ‘Superboss’ ballast distributor (see image) and Kubota people carrier.

The worker suffered catastrophic and life-changing injuries to his legs and spine. He lost 12cm of bone to his left leg and 4cm to his right leg. The tendons and nerves of his right leg were also irreparably damaged, causing permanent disability.

A second worker suffered minor injuries to his wrist and shoulder from the collision.

The incident happened on 19 September 2018 on a 19 mile stretch of track between Crewe and Chester.

ORR’s investigation led to it prosecuting Network Rail under the Health Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Network Rail was fined after pleading guilty at Chester Magistrates Court.

ORR found failings in Network Rail’s management of the worksite, including poor planning, failure to provide adequate supervision of the works, poor communication at all levels and failure to provide adequate information, instructions and training to safety-critical staff.

District Judge Sanders on sentencing Network Rail stated the subsequent accident was a result of many layers of failure within Network Rail. Judge Sanders said there was a lack of clarity in planning and as to what was going on, insufficiently robust supervision, and operating failures by Network Rail.

ORR’s HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser CBE said, “The injuries sustained to a Network Rail employee on 19 September 2018 were horrendous and have had a devastating impact on him and his family, to whom we offer our heartfelt sympathies.

“The incident was caused by totally inadequate supervision of the task at all levels.

“Nobody was making sure that those under their supervision had been following safe working practices, which led to this incident that could easily have been avoided.”

A Kent company, RPS Scaffolding Ltd, has been fined following an incident where a scaffold the company erected collapsed, injuring two workers.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 10 August 2020, two individuals were injured when a scaffold they were working from on Thorpebank Road, London collapsed.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found RPS Scaffolding Ltd erected a scaffold to enable the exterior of the property to be decorated. The scaffold erected did not conform to standard configuration and it was erected without strength and stability calculations being carried out. Soon after the two individuals accessed the top lift of the scaffold it collapsed. One of them suffered a fractured shoulder, elbow and wrist while the other suffered a fractured shoulder.

RPS Scaffolding Ltd of 24 Chaplin Drive, Headcorn, Ashford, Kent pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 8(b)(ii) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The court fined them £40,000 and awarded full costs of £4,705.16.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Thompson, commented: “The Work at Height Regulations are clear, where scaffolding is erected that does not conform with a generally recognised standard configuration then strength and stability calculations shall be carried out.

“RPS Scaffolding Ltd’s failure to do this resulted in a scaffold that was unsuitable for its use that collapsed within the first morning of its use, injuring two people and putting the public at risk.”

As reported on: HSE Media

Lancashire County Council has been fined after several employees carrying out work in the highways department developed a debilitating nerve condition as a result of failure to control exposure to vibration.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that, in February 2019, HSE received a RIDDOR report from Lancashire County Council, relating to the diagnosis of a case of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs). An improvement notice was served to the council in July 2019 requiring the council to improve their control of HAVs. However, subsequent to this, a further ten cases of vibration- related ill-health, unrelated to the RIDDOR report, were uncovered and reported late. Four more reports were also filed, but these were on time.

Regular use of vibrating tools causes the painful and disabling disorder which, in this case, has left the employees with nerve damage to the hands and arms, making everyday tasks and leisure activities difficult or impossible.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the council to ensure that operatives accurately recorded their levels of exposure to vibration.

Furthermore, health surveillance records had not been acted upon promptly to reduce or stop exposure levels when symptoms were reported. In addition to this, risk assessments were not adequate for controlling the amount of exposure of operatives, and practices had not been implemented to prevent overexposure. Had these measures been in place the total of fifteen reported HAVs incidences of ill-health could have been prevented. It was also found that the council had failed to send reports of the various diagnoses to HSE without delay as required under the RIDDOR regulations.

Lancashire County Council of County Hall, Fishergate, Preston pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 8 of the RIDDOR Regulations 2013. The Council was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366,78.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jennifer French, said: “HAVs can be a serious and sometimes disabling condition that is irreversible.

“All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff are not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do. HSE is committed to thoroughly investigating companies who do not comply with their duties and will prosecute if necessary.”

As reported on: HSE Media Centre