Worker’s arm injured by two tonne metal plate

An Edinburgh steel fabricating firm has been fined after an employee’s arm and hand were severely injured while lifting steel plates.

On 21 August 2009, Ian Sutherland was working with a colleague to mark a delivery of sheet metal plates with unique identifying numbers before they could be accepted into the factory.

The metal plates, each weighing more than two tonnes, were placed on top of each other. This meant that they each had to be lifted in turn so that the next plate down could be marked.

At the time of the incident, it was the company’s practice for a crane operator to lift the plates by approximately 18 inches using bare hooks. A wooden baton would then be placed in between the plates, the intended purpose of which was to protect the operators while reaching in to mark the lower plate.

Only a month before the incident occurred, HSE had carried out an inspection of the site. At that time, the HSE inspector had highlighted the importance of using the proper lifting equipment and the need for employees to have the correct training and supervision.

Mr Sutherland placed his right arm between the two plates to mark the lower plate, when the upper plate slipped from the hook it was held by and fell onto his arm.

Mr Sutherland’s right forearm was broken and needed surgery to insert a six inch steel plate to support it. His middle finger on his right hand was also broken and needed to be pinned in three places. More than a year after the incident, Mr Sutherland still has a constant dull ache in his arm and has limited strength, and is unable to grip items properly.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showed that Forth Steel Ltd had an unsafe procedure in place for lifting the steel plates. The investigation also showed that the company had not carried out a suitable assessment of the risks involved when employees worked under a suspended load and that the crane operator had not received any formal lifting training, despite the company identifying this need some months earlier.

Forth Steel Ltd of South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure that there was a safe system of work for the lifting of the plates, and not providing their employees with the information, instruction and training they needed to ensure their health and safety. At Edinburgh Sheriff Court today (8 December), the company was fined £50,000.

Following the case, HSE inspector Kerry Cringan said:

“This was a serious and entirely preventable incident that has left Mr Sutherland with lasting pain and discomfort, and affected his quality of life.

“Forth Steel Ltd was using a wholly inappropriate system of work, and despite previous discussions about lifting activities, used inappropriate equipment when the propriety plate grabs were available.”

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