Maintenance firm fined after Heathrow incident

A worker suffered injuries to his face and knees when he fell two metres in a maintenance hangar at Heathrow Airport.

John Nicholas, 59, from Gloucester, was employed by aircraft maintenance company Messier Services Ltd, and was replacing the landing gear at the front of an A340 aircraft when the incident happened.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Mr Nicholas and a colleague were using a fork lift truck in an attempt to align the barrel of the main landing gear fitting with the socket on the underside of the aircraft.

During the operation Mr Nicholas realised the alignment was not correct and in an attempt to correct it kneeled down on an unsecured pallet designed to support the landing gear, two metres above the floor.

However, the forklift truck supporting the pallet reversed suddenly causing the pallet to drop to the floor. Mr Nicholas fell with the pallet, fracturing his knee cap and suffering significant injuries to the left side of his face. Since the incident he has needed a number of operations to his mouth and teeth.

The HSE investigation found the work was not properly planned and the pallet being used did not have a proper adjustment to help align the landing gear and the socket on the underside of the aircraft.

Messier Services Ltd, which has its UK offices in Meteor Business Park, Cheltenham Road East, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

It was fined £7,200 and ordered to pay costs of £11,820 at the City of London Magistrates’ Court today.

Following sentencing HSE inspector Steve Kirton said:

“This company did not properly plan this work even though it was a core part of its operations.  Mr Nicholas has suffered severe injuries to his face and knees purely due to a lack of planning.

“Messier should have either found a way working at ground level or provided a safe way of working at height with access to the right equipment.

“Employers need to plan work and assess the risk to people not only in their own premises, but also when the work takes place in another company’s property.”

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