A dock company in Essex has been ordered to pay a £15,000 fine following an accident at work in which a man was seriously injured.
Andrew Gotts was helping to unload cargo containers from a ship at one of Harwich Dock Company's berths at the Port of Harwich. The 26-year-old was using the crane and chains on the ship to perform the task when a container became jammed.
However, it then moved suddenly and Mr Gotts was trapped against the handrail of the access platform upon which he was standing.
His lower right leg was crushed and he subsequently had to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery. In addition, Mr Gotts has been unable to return to work since the accident occurred in October 2012.
Work Accident Investigation
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out a a work accident investigation and discovered that Harwich Dock Company had not introduced clear procedures regarding what should happen if containers become jammed.
Furthermore, the HSE found that it was unclear who was responsible for tasks such as supervising the operation, keeping the area clear and controlling the movement of the crane.
This, it said, meant that Mr Gotts was not asked to leave the danger zone as soon as the container had been freed.
The HSE also identified a number of other risks at the site. For example, it said there was nothing to prevent dock workers from falling during off-loading operations, while a policy stating that harnesses must be worn was not properly enforced by anybody at the firm.
Harwich Dock Company admitted to breaching health and safety law at Chelmsford Crown Court and was subsequently hit with a fine of £15,000. In addition, it was told to pay more than £14,000 in costs.
Entirely Preventable Accident
Toni Drury, an inspector at the HSE, stated that the risk of containers jamming is "well-known in the port industry". However, she said Harwich Dock Company did not have a clear procedure for dealing with this scenario, which meant workers had not been told of the need to keep people clear of jammed containers and that one person needs to be designated to manage operations.
As a result, Ms Drury believes the accident that left Mr Gotts with "horrific and life-changing injuries" was "entirely preventable".
“If Harwich Dock Company had properly assessed and managed the risks to all dock workers during the unloading of containers, and particularly to agency workers who are less familiar with tasks and settings, an alternative method of working would have been used and risks reduced," she commented.
"As it was, they were exposed to significant dangers exacerbated by failings in the company's supervision."
Docks & Ports Need Robust Procedures
According to HSE guidance, lifting operations that are poorly planned can expose people working in the area to "significant risks".
Companies engaged in these activities at ports are urged to make sure they have "robust" maintenance regimes in place for their cranes, with critical parts identified, monitored and tested at regular intervals.
The HSE also recommends that duty holders consider the possibility of "foreseeable misuse, such as overloading or use in high winds".
By Francesca Witney