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27th January 2017

Director jailed following MEWP failure fatality

Donald Craig, who runs Craig Services & Access, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for breaches of health and safety law due to a MEWP failure fatality.

The conviction was granted as a result of Mr Craig’s company loaning a hazardous cherry picker to a client. The equipment in question failed and collapsed which caused the death of one worker and seriously injured another.

The company was also fined £61,000 for failing to certify that those who were using the equipment were not at risk of injury or death, for failing to maintain the equipment and for loaning the cherry picker out when it hadn’t being certified as been fit for use.

In a separate case, J M Access Solutions, who had been employed to complete statutory thorough inspections was also fined £30,000 for failing to do so.

Airdrie Sheriff Court understood that Gary Currie and Alexander Nisbet had been working in the basket of the mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), a cherry picker, at a height of about 30m when the downfall happened on 20 July 2012 at Buchanan House, Dundas Road, in Glasgow. Currie was removing netting from the building’s façade and Nisbet was operating the platform.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered that the third main boom section of the MEWP (known as main boom 3) had failed, crashing the basket to the ground, killing Currie and extremely injuring Nisbet.

The Court heard that the cherry picker was owned by Craig Services and that the company’s manager was Donald Craig.

Court verdict

Sheriff Petra Collins stated that the company, as well as Craig, was under an absolute duty to maintain the cherry picker in good working order and that the cherry should be thoroughly examined

The court was informed that there had been an earlier incident on 17 May 2011 when main boom 3 on this particular machine had failed. Luckily, on that occasion, the fall was halted by the roof of a block of flats and nobody was injured.

It transpired that the failure of main boom 3 in this incident was never fully investigated. CTE Spa, the cherry picker’s manufacturer, had recommended Craig Services to replace main boom 3, however the company decided instead to repair it. Sheriff Collins said that Craig Services did not have any manufacturer’s agreement nor a manufacturers specification in relation to the proposed repair.

Such was the damage to main boom 3, it remained to be clear that both a major repair and an extensive modification were needed. However, Craig had instructed a firm of welders to conduct the repair, expressing the main boom 3 would be nested inside the second section of the boom.

As repairs progressed, Craig assured the welder that the platform would only be utilised for short-reach works and that main boom 3 would not be load-bearing. At no time did Craig Services carry out a modification on the cherry picker to ensure that this was in fact the case.

Inspector comments

HSE principal inspector Graeme McMinn stated ‘At the time of the accident, the MEWP had a catalogue of defects some of which were safety critical demonstrating that Craig Services did not have an adequate proactive maintenance and reactive repair system in place within the company’.

He added : ‘ The competence and diligence of a thorough examiner is vital as it is they who declare the MEWP safe to use. J M Access Solutions failed to carry out a diligent thorough examination and declared the MEWP safe to use. The British Standard provides guidance on what an examination should include following a major repair on a MEWP structure. Non- destructive testing and load testing should have been carried out and overload testing discussed with the manufacturer’.

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