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Council fined £50k after truck driver crushed

  • 14 January 2014
  • By Roger Brown

South Lanarkshire Council has been fined £50,000 after a driver suffered severe abdominal crush injuries when he was trapped between the lifting hoist and the side of his recycling truck.

In a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Hamilton Sheriff Court was told how Derek Maitland, 37, was part of a three-man crew and driving the glass recycling vehicle in Glen Turret, East Kilbride in January 2011 when the side lifter jammed in an upright position.

Maitland unplugged the side lifter’s pendant control unit and took it into the vehicle’s cab to dry out, which had been done in the past when unexpected stoppages had occurred.

A short time later he went back outside to reconnect the pendant control unit. But the vehicle’s engine had seemingly been left running, which meant power was delivered to the mechanism. The hoist activated and lowered, trapping him by his torso against the vehicle.

Maitland required extensive surgery to repair damaged arteries and had to have most of his colon and small bowel removed.

He can no longer eat and digest food as normal and is fed intravenously. However, in spite of these serious and life-changing injuries, he has returned to work.

An HSE investigation found that the incident occurred as a result of a combination of inadequate risk assessment, the lack of a safe system of work, and a failure to provide adequate information, instruction, supervision and training.

The court heard that the pendant control units were prone to malfunctioning, especially in cold and wet weather, and that drivers and vehicle crews had developed a practice of dealing with the problem by unplugging them and taking them into the cab to dry and warm them.

This did not take long and once warmed and re-attached, allowed the vehicle to resume work without the need to wait for maintenance staff to arrive.

Although the council’s safe system of work stated that employees should not attempt to repair faulty equipment and that any defects should be reported, it failed to specifically mention the removal and reconnection of the pendant controllers.

Following the incident, the council carried out a review and amended its system of work to prevent a recurrence.

South Lanarkshire Council pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
After the case, HSE inspector Eve Macready said: “South Lanarkshire Council understood the risks of working with such vehicles but, although supervisors were aware of this developing practice relating to the removal of the pendant controllers, they did nothing to discourage it.

“The systems of work in place should have triggered activity to stop this practice or review existing arrangements.”


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