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  Firm sentenced after worker paralysed in fall

Firm sentenced after worker paralysed in fall

26 June 2014 Email this article

A Glaswegian firm has been fined for safety failings after a worker was left paralysed from the neck down when he fell around three metres from the top of a gritter.

Colin Shields, 34, of Cumbernauld, was standing on top of a gritter at Inex Works Ltd’s premises in a bid to help his colleagues dislodge compacted grit salt from inside the machine when the incident happened in December 2010.

Airdrie Sheriff Court heard that Mr Shields, a father of two and company secretary at the firm at the date of the incident, suffered irreversible damage to his spine as a result of the fall. He is now paralysed from the neck down, and requires help and assistance with his day to day care. 

The HSE’s investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed a number of significant failures in the company’s management of health and safety.

At the time of the incident the company operated from a yard in at Burnside Industrial Estate, Kilsyth.  When Mr Shields returned to the yard following a gritting job in Perthshire, he saw three of his colleagues clearing grit salt from the chute, spreader and gritter box on the gritter vehicle and offered to assist.

Mr Shields climbed the ladder at the back of the vehicle to gain access to the top of the gritter body. As he moved towards the rear of the vehicle to get a pole to help him dislodge the salt, his foot slipped and he fell head first onto the ground.

His fellow workers raised the alarm and he was rushed to hospital but was found to have sustained several fractures of his spine, leaving him paralysed. He remained in hospital until July 2011 and later had surgery to his right arm that has provided him with some limited movement.

HSE Inspectors found that Inex Works Ltd had failed to take sufficient measures to prevent falls where work was being carried out at height. The method used by its employees was unsafe as the gritter was not designed with a working platform, walkway or hand rails and Mr Shields was not wearing a harness or restraint to prevent him from falling.

The incident could have been prevented by taking suitable precautions or using alternative means of access such as erecting tower scaffolding to work from.

Inex Works Ltd, of St Vincent Street, Glasgow, was fined £13,500 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.  

Following the case, HSE Inspector Hazel Dobb, said: “Mr Shields could have easily been killed. As it is, he has been left with irreversible injuries and he and his family have obviously been devastated.

“Inex Works Ltd failed to make sure employees were able to work in safety. This incident could have easily been avoided as there were several other ways this work could have been carried out, such as using alternative means of access or use of a harness.

“Tragically, that is a lesson for the company learned too late for Mr Shields.”