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Groundworks firm in court after young worker loses leg

Dec 20, 2013 | HSE News

A Crieff-based groundworks company has been fined for safety failings after a 20 year-old worker had to have a leg amputated when it was crushed during the construction of Griffin Wind Farm in Perth and Kinross.

Gregor Steele, from Perthshire, suffered severe injuries when his left leg was crushed between a tractor pulling a heavy water bowser and the bucket of a loading shovel on 3 September 2010.

Mr Steele, who had been employed by Gallagher Groundworks since leaving school, was airlifted to hospital where he underwent a nine-hour operation in an attempt to save his leg. Sadly, despite a second operation, this proved unsuccessful and his leg was amputated above the knee on 10 September 2010.

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) led to a prosecution of Gallagher Groundworks at Perth Sheriff Court yesterday (19 December).

The court was told that between 13 August and 3 September 2010 the company failed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the work being carried out and failed to ensure that the machinery being used was appropriate for the work, was properly maintained and that safety equipment was fully operative.

Mr Steele had positioned the tractor to empty the bowser and used the handbrake on it. There was no parking brake, as this had been disabled by Gallagher Groundwork’s mechanic around five months previously. As he stood between the tractor and the loading shovel, the tractor was dragged backwards by the weight of the bowser, pinning him between the two.

HSE concluded Gallagher Groundworks had failed to ensure that the tractor was capable of safely towing the weight of the loaded water bowser or ensure its ‘parking lock’ braking system was working correctly. The tractor had a maximum towable mass of three tonnes, well below the weight of the full bowser, estimated at around 12 tonnes.

In addition, the bowser’s drum brakes were in a poor state of repair and could not be fitted to the tractor because the connecting hose was missing.

Gallagher Groundworks of The Yard, Commissioner Street, Crieff, was fined £32,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Mr Steele was unable to work for two years. He has since been fitted with a prosthetic limb and has returned to work for Gallaghers using an automatic tractor.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Kerry Elliot, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident and the failures by Gallagher Groundworks led directly to this life-changing injury sustained by a young man, aged just 20 at the time of the incident.

“The equipment was not suitable in combination for the work it was being put to and furthermore was poorly maintained with the parking lock actually being disabled rather than repaired.

“Mr Steele has finally been able to return to work but he will endure the after effects of this incident for the rest of his life.”

Source: HSE