A Canvey Island engineering firm was sentenced today for health and safety breaches relating to poor safe systems of work after a welder suffered life-changing injuries.
Southend-on-Sea Magistrates’ Court heard that on 10 June 2015 Felix Trefas, 27, a welder for F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd, was making large steel reinforcing cages which were moved by overhead travelling cranes.
When one of these cranes broke down, a colleague asked Mr Trefas to climb more than an estimated six metres up the crane supports to re-set the controls. While Mr Trefas was resetting the faulty crane, his left leg was crushed when he came into contact with another overhead crane. His leg was later amputated below the knee.
The District Judge heard the overhead cranes were poorly maintained so that workers regularly had to work at height to re-set them and during the night shift this often involved workers climbing the crane support column
Summing up he said this “horrific accident should never have happened” and that the company “should have had systems in place” to identify that unsafe access to the cranes was regularly occurring.
The court also heard the toilet and washing facilities for workers were in an extremely poor and dirty condition despite having been the subject of previous enforcement action by HSE.
F. Brazil Reinforcements Ltd of Romainville Way, Charfleets Industrial Estate, Canvey Island pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and to two separate breaches of Regulation 4 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
It was fined £277,000 in relation to the Section 3(1) charge, a single penalty of £5,000 in relation to the two breaches of Regulation 4, and ordered to pay £11,904 costs and £120 victim surcharge.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Matthews commented: “It is essential that lifting equipment is properly maintained and that safe systems of work are in place for work at height. Employers have a duty to ensure that welfare facilities are kept clean.
“Felix is incredibly lucky that he was not killed in this incident but he has suffered permanent life-changing injuries. This preventable workplace accident has changed the life of a previously fit and hard-working young man irrevocably.”