Two year prison term for access manager

By Euan Youdale09 January 2017

The manager of a UK-based access rental company has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for his neglect of health and safety obligations that led to the death of one man and caused serious injury to another.

After a 16 day trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court in Scotland, 57-year-old Donald Craig was found guilty of a breach of health and safety legislation and sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

On 20 June 2012, Gary Currie, a safety net rigger, and Alexander Nisbet, a self-employed operator contracted by Craig Services, were in the basket of the platform removing netting from the facade of the Buchanan House office block at Port Dundas Road in Glasgow city centre when the third main boom section buckled causing the platform's basket to fall 28m (92 ft) to the ground, with the result that Alexander Nisbet was seriously injured and Gary Currie suffered fatal injuries.

Hamilton based Craig Services & Access was also found guilty of three charges relating to the collapse of a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) and failures in relation to it maintenance and use and was fined a total of £61,000 (US$74,080).

Another company, J M Access Solutions, was fined £30,000 ($36,433) for its failure to carry out a systematic and detailed thorough examination of the platform and its safety-critical parts.

This was following an earlier incident, in May 2011, involving the platform after which Craig Services & Access had instructed a repair to the damaged section of the main boom. The repair had been incorrectly carried out and J M Access Solutions subsequently failed in their duty to carry out an adequate thorough examination of the platform.

Gary Aitken, head of the UK Crown Office health and safety division said, "This incident, which resulted in the death of Gary Currie and caused serious injury to Alexander Nisbet, could have been avoided had Donald Craig and Craig Services & Access heeded advice and taken measures to maintain the platform in a safe condition.

“At the centre of this all was the decision to instruct this repair. It was a decision that left Gary Currie and Alexander Nisbet exposed to an unacceptable risk and was essentially an accident waiting to happen.

“A MEWP is a safety critical piece of equipment and it was highly foreseeable that such a repair would risk the lives of those using the equipment. This incident has left family and friends devastated at the loss of a loved one.

“Hopefully this prosecution will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings."

Health & safety Executive (HSE) principal inspector Graeme McMinn stated, "The death of Gary Currie was entirely preventable. Craig Services and Access and Donald Craig were advised by the manufacturer to replace the damaged boom. Instead, they chose a much cheaper repair that left the boom in an unsafe condition. Guidance in the British Standard Safe Use of MEWPS advises that repairs to any parts of the MEWP structure should be in accordance with the procedure specified by the manufacturer.

“At the time of the accident the MEWP had a catalogue of defects some of which were safety critical demonstrating that Craig Services and Access did not have an adequate proactive maintenance and reactive repair system in place within the company. For a complex piece of equipment such as the MEWP, that system should have included daily pre-use checks, intermediate inspections and maintenance based on manufacturer recommendations and six monthly thorough examinations carried out by a competent person independent of the MEWP owner.

“The competence and diligence of a thorough examiner is vital as it is they who declare the MEWP safe to use. JM 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.

“This tragic accident should highlight the absolute duty for owners of MEWPS to maintain them to ensure continued safe operation.”

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