White Card Update: Missing Hook Safety Catch Causes Sheet to Fall from Excavator resulting in Injury

A serious construction incident has left a 58 year old British man injured after a 7m sheet pile fell and struck him. The worker apparently suffered multiple, life changing injuries for which the company was held liable.

According to a report an excavator was used to remove sheet piling installed around a collapsed culvert to prevent ground collapse. The sheet pile became detached from the hook of the excavator as it was being lowered causing multiple injuries to the worker which included a fractured skull and pelvis, several snapped ribs and a punctured lung.

The cause of the accident was discovered as the inability of the hook to retain the chain because of a missing safety catch. Also an exclusion zone around the piling was not maintained whilst the pile was being lifted out, a lift that should not have been attempted.

An article on www.ppconstructionsafety.com explains what happened:

pilingincident2Coopers Civil Engineering Ltd, of Main Gate, Knapton, York, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £6,500 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.


After the hearing, HSE Inspector Medani Close said:


“This employee suffered life-changing injuries because his employer failed to devise a safe system of work for lifting out the sheet piles. The lift should never have been attempted using a hook with a missing safety catch.


Lifting operations can often put workers at great risk of injury, as well as incurring great costs when they go wrong. It is therefore important to properly resource, plan and organise lifting work to ensure it is carried out safely.”


Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/04/18/sheet-pile-lifting-operation-not-properly-planned/

According to Australian legislature, the construction industry employer is responsible for providing a safe work environment and safe system of work for employees.

A healthy and safe work environment is vital not only for workers to be kept safe, but also to ensure continued productivity. Healthy workers are happy workers and this translates to profit for the company.

When engaging in any construction activity as dangerous as excavation work, work must be properly planned, managed, supervised and executed and the machinery being used should be properly inspected before the operation begins. The employer involved did not develop a safe system of work for lifting out the sheet piles.

Workers involved in work with heavy machinery as well as those working in the vicinity must be aware of the hazards that excavation machinery presents and should also be trained about the procedures that are implemented to control the risks associated with excavators.

The machinery hook had a missing catch and therefore should not have been used and doing so was an act of negligence. Workers should inspect machinery before use and ensure that machinery such as excavators are in perfect working condition especially before undertaking dangerous work. As the article above highlights, planning and organising is crucial in preparing for lifting operations and ensuring they are carried out without a hitch.