April 17, 2017
A road worker injury claim, made by a man now paralysed from the waist down, has been strengthened by a successful HSE prosecution against his employer.
On May 23rd 2014, Mark Durrant was one of three men tasked with connecting gas pipes – each weighing 440kg – along a stretch of road in Strood, Kent. Each section of pipe was lifted into place by an excavator and propped across a piece of timber straddling the top of the 1.38 metre-deep trench until the men were ready to connect it.
While Mark was getting himself into position to connect the next section of gas pipe, the timber supporting the pipe snapped. The pipe fell onto Mark´s back, tearing his spinal cord, shattering two lower vertebrae and fracturing two ribs. Mark was taken to hospital, where he underwent eight hours of surgery, but is now permanently paralysed.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the accident and found the system of work used on the site was unsafe. It prosecuted Mark´s employer of seven years – Forefront Utilities Ltd – with breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The gas installation denied liability for Mark´s injury, and claimed the system of work was common within the company.
Mark made a road worker injury claim against Forefront Utilities Ltd, seeking compensation for his injuries. The strength of his claim improved last week when Maidstone Crown Court found Forefront Utilities Ltd guilty of failing to discharge its duty of care and fined the company £200,000 plus costs of £56,686. Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Cousins said:
“Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”