Plant boss jailed over fatal platform collapse

A Scottish plant hire boss has been jailed for health and safety breaches following a fatal mobile platform incident, which left one worker dead and another seriously injured.

Donald Craig (57) was sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years imprisonment after a 16-day trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

The court heard that Gary Currie, a safety net rigger, and Alexander Nisbet, a self-employed operator contracted by Craig Services, were in the basket of a platform removing netting from the facade of the Buchanan House office block in Glasgow city centre when the third main boom section buckled, causing the platform’s basket to fall 28 metres to the ground.

Mr Currie suffered fatal injuries while Mr Nisbet was seriously injured when the incident occurred in June 2012.

Hamilton-based Craig Services & Access Limited was also found guilty of three charges relating to the collapse of a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) and maintenance and use failures, resulting in a £61,000 fine.

Another firm, J M Access Solutions Ltd, was fined £30,000 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 Limited had instructed a repair to the damaged section of the main boom. The repair had been incorrectly carried out and J M Access Solutions Ltd were deemed to have subsequently failed in their duty to carry out an adequate thorough examination of the platform.

Gary Aitken, head of the 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 Limited 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 principal inspector Graeme McMinn described Mr Currie’s death as “entirely preventable”.

“Craig Services and Access Ltd and Donald Craig were advised by the manufacturer to replace the damaged boom,” Mr McMinn said. “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 Ltd 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 Ltd 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.”