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Inex Works fined after driver paralysed in fall from gritter lorry

  • 24 June 2014
  • By Roger Brown

Glasgow-based Inex Works has been fined £13,500 after a worker was left paralysed from the neck down when he fell around 3m from the top of a gritter lorry.

In a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Airdrie Sheriff Court was told how Colin Shields, 34, of Cumbernauld, was standing on top of the truck at the Inex Works premises to help his colleagues dislodge compacted grit salt from inside the machine when the incident happened in December 2010.

At the time, the company operated from a yard in Garrell Road on the Burnside Industrial Estate, Kilsyth.

When Shields returned to the yard following a gritting job in Blackford, 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.

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 colleagues raised the alarm and he was rushed to hospital, but Shields 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, which has provided him with some limited movement.

The court was told how Shields, company secretary at the firm at the time 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.

An HSE investigation revealed a number of significant failures in the company’s management of health and safety.
HSE inspectors found that Inex Works 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 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 pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The regulation states that where work is carried out at height, every employer must take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, anyone falling from a distance liable to cause injury.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Hazel Dobb said: “Inex Works 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.”


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