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When MEWPs are used unsafely

Construction contractor and employee were both fined following a serious accident involving a cherry picker

The Health and Safety Executive has prosecuted a York construction contractor and one of its employees after two men fell from a mobile elevated working platform – or cherry picker – while working at the side of the A19 in Bootham, York.

The MEWP was sited without the necessary warning road signs to show that the working platform was projecting into the carriageway.

Members of the public witnessed the platform being struck by a passing lorry, throwing Karl Thackrah and Chris Cook from the access platform, which was at first-floor level, onto the roadside, leaving both men seriously injured.

Employee Mr Thackrah, of York, was fined £2,500 and costs of £3,500 at York Crown Court on 22 December, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

At an earlier hearing at York Magistrates Court on 4 September 2008, William Birch and Sons Ltd of Osbaldwick, York, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,500 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act.

The prosecution follows the incident on 2 August 2007 in which Mr Thackrah and Mr Cook, the platform’s hirer, fell from the elevating work platform which they were using to access the first floor of Mr Cook’s house in Bootham to touch up paintwork.

HSE Inspector Paul Robinson says: “The consequences were life-threatening for the two men involved, with Mr Cook being in a coma for a month. While both have partially recovered, there remains considerable suffering.

“William Birch & Sons had provided training information and equipment for Mr Thackrah, but it failed to ensure that the particular risks involved in the work at this location were adequately assessed and controlled.

Its employee, Karl Thackrah, failed to take reasonable care while setting up and operating the platform.”

International Powered Access Federation managing director Tim Whiteman says: “The Court’s decision to fine the employee sends a strong, simple warning to all operators: you personally have a legal obligation to ensure that your MEWP is being operated safely, as responsibility does not automatically pass to the employer.

MEWPs are the safest way of doing temporary work at height when correctly used by trained operators. If you have any doubts about how to do this, ask for appropriate training.”

Mr Robinson says: “The IPAF reminder to platform operators is timely, particularly in view of the increased penalties available in magistrates courts from this month. In this case the degree of risk taken was judged to be high and consequences of the breach to be catastrophic.”

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