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£200k for suspended platform incident

Apollo Cradles Ltd of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and Bradway Construction Ltd, of Sheffield, Yorkshire, were given large fines today for an incident in 2003 that killed one and left three others injured.

Apollo Cradles was found guilty of breaching health and safety law last month in Sheffield Crown Court after being accused of not properly maintaining or inspecting its equipment and was today fined £115,000 plus £45,000 costs.

Bradway Construction, which had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in Sheffield Magistrates’ Court, where it was revealed that it had made no attempt to train its employees on the safe use of the equipment, was fined £25,000 with £18,000 costs.

HSE principal inspector Dave Redman said: “This is a tragic case involving four men who had never worked in a suspended access cradle before. The incident could have been avoided had Apollo Cradles ensured that the equipment it was providing was safe and fit for use. By failing to operate an effective maintenance regime and to properly examine the condition of the cradle, they betrayed the trust of workers whose lives depended on them.”

“Added to this, the workers were required by their employers, Bradway Construction, to carry out painting and maintenance at height in a cradle without any training or instruction as to its safe use. This is unacceptable in this day and age – all workers have a right to expect to be trained on how to use the equipment they are working with, and there is plenty of advice and guidance available to employers in the construction industry to help them meet their legal obligations.”

Four men, all employees of Bradway Construction, were using a suspended access cradle provided by Apollo Cradles to work on the maintenance and painting of an office building in Vicar Lane, Sheffield on 3rd July 2003, when a bracket on one side of the cradle failed causing them to fall from a height of 10 metres one of the men -Tony Bottomley, 60, died while his three colleagues were seriously injured.
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The fallen cradle

The investigation found that the bracket was badly rusted and that the platform had not been regularly inspected or maintained.

Apollo director K.Herbert insisted in court that the company's inspection regime went further than required under safety regulations. The court was told however that the cradle had been suspended from the side of the building - St James House, for 13 months without a thorough examination.

Vertikal Comment

Apollo appear to have been lucky, it could have been hit with an unlimited fine and the full cost of the HSE investigation, reported to have been £500,000. Providing equipment for rental that is not fit for purpose and even dangerous is unforgiveable and needs to be dealt with very strongly.

However it is also outrageous that it took five years to bring this case to this point, if true it is also totally unacceptable that the investigation cost so much.

Looking at his simplistically it would have taken any knowledgeable person an hour or two to decide that the cause was a failed bracket and that that the bracket was rusty.

A swift visit to the owners premises and a demand to see the inspection records, plus a series of interviews with staff would have gathered as much information as was useful

While this certainly oversimplifies the facts and ignores civil liberties etc… if we can lock up ‘suspects’ for 48 days without charge or have countless reasons to enter private households without a warrant, then surely the HSE should be allowed to follow up such clear cut cases with vigour.

Even then why wait five years??? It benefits no one, lessons that might be learnt are not, while relations of those injured do not get closure. The company being charged would certainly rather get the case dealt with than to live with the situation up in the air, often wondering IF they are going to be charged or not.

It is about time that the process was changed, the HSE would then have more time to really help improve safety without more money and people.