Construction firms fined £120k after drainage pipes fall on worker

drainage pipes
Each of the drainage pipes that fell on top of Anthony Pennell weighed around 160kg (Image: HSE)

Two construction companies have been fined a combined £120,000 after a groundworker suffered horrific injuries when heavy drainage pipes fell on him.

The accident happened to Anthony Pennell, an employee of R O Donnell Plant & Civil Ltd at a site in Fradley Park, Lichfield, on 3 September 2019. He was 32 at the time.

The pipes, each weighing around 160kg, had been suspended on the forks of a telehandler while being moved to a different area of the site.

Although one pack of pipes had already been transported safely, the incident happened while moving a second load. When the telehandler stopped, Pennell tried to reposition a dangling skid so the pack could be lowered properly. The load fell on top of him at this point.

Pennell was taken to Royal Stoke University Hospital having sustained several fractures to both sides of his pelvis, fractured vertebrae and a bleed on the spine.

Four years on, the 37-year-old has been unable to resume his job as a groundworker. Instead, he is only able to work as a landscaper, which pays him less. He continues to suffer pain in his right leg and is no longer able to carry out heavy manual duties.

Failure to carry out safe operations

An investigation by HSE found that both Pennell’s employer and the principal contractor, Readie Construction Ltd, failed to ensure that the operation was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

The investigation also identified issues in relation to the level of knowledge and experience of those involved in the lifting operations, and in the companies’ overall management and coordination of the telehandler usage between contractors.

R O Donnell Plant & Civil Ltd, of New Road, Worlaby, Brigg, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to breaching 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £80,000. It was also ordered to pay costs of £3,784.

Readie Construction Ltd, of Falcon Business Centre, Ashton Road, Romford, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,784.

HSE inspector Will Gretton said: “This horrific incident could easily have been avoided had the work been properly planned and suitable control measures implemented to properly secure and safely transport the load.

“This case should remind all on construction sites and wider industry that all lifting operations must be properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner to ensure the health and safety of those involved or affected by the work.”

HSE has guidance about the regulations on lifting operations and equipment.

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