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Halifax worker left disabled by crush injuries

18-02-2013

The beam on the factory floor some time after the incidentA West Yorkshire firm has been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was left with life-threatening injuries when a 6.5 tonnes steel beam toppled onto his back.

Mark Priestley, 34, was pinned against a skip by the beam at the Halifax factory of Elland Steel Structures Ltd. on 31 January 2011.

The weight of the beam crushed his spine and torso, leaving him with irreversible spinal and nerve damage.

Mr Priestley, of Claremount, Halifax, who is married with a young son, was in hospital for five months. Although he regained some movement in his legs, he is largely confined to a wheelchair, still needs intensive therapy and is unlikely to be able to work again.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Elland Steel Structures for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

On 14 February, Bradford Crown Court heard that Mr Priestley had been working with a colleague to weld pin connections to the 23m long beam. The beam had to be rotated several times so the welding could be done, which meant lifting it using chain slings.

HSE found that it was likely that one or both of the chain slings next to the beam had snagged it as it was about to be lifted in preparation for slinging. As the chain was being raised, it caught the beam which became unbalanced and toppled sideways onto Mr Priestley's back as he attempted to get out of the way.

The court was told the company had failed to assess the risks for lifting operations so they were not properly planned or supervised. The chain slings and technique used were also unsuitable for the load.

Elland Steel Structures Ltd., which employs some 90 people at the steel fabrication factory in Gibbet Street, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 toward costs.

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