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Fine for Henry Williams Ltd

An engineering firm from Darlington has been fined following a delivery driver sustaining serious injuries when his chest was penetrated by a steel bar.

Jason Ripley also from Darlington had been delivering wood to Henry Williams Ltd at their Dodsworth Street premises at the time of the incident in August 2008.

Darlington Magistrates heard that a horizontal barrier on the site, which was made up in part of a 6 metre long, 6cm diameter metal tube, had already been opened by an employee of Henry Williams Ltd in order to allow Mr. Ripley entry to the unloading bay.

Mr. Ripley reversed his flatbed lorry through the barrier in order for the timber on one side could be unloaded. The intention was for him to drive back through the gate, turn the lorry round before returning to unload the wood from the other side.

However Magistrates heard that as Mr. Ripley drove toward the barrier, the end of the bar could not be seen. It had swung partially back into the road and surrounding foliage making its face on position difficult to see. The bar initially hit the bonnet, broke the windscreen and impaled Mr. Ripley’s chest.

The tube smashing three ribs when it entered Mr. Ripley’s chest and caused damage to one of his lungs. The exit wound in his back and caused by the pole was between 3 and 4 inches in diameter. Fire fighters cut him free before he was taken to hospital via helicopter with some of the barrier still in his chest.

Mr. Ripley had to take 10 weeks off work; however, he has made a full recovery since.

The HSE investigation found that Henry Williams Ltd had failed to complete a risk assessment relating to the vehicles driving off and on site. There was also no way of securing the swing barrier.

A HSE spokesperson has commented that the real tragedy of this horrific incident could easily have been avoided. If it had been possible to secure the barrier in the open position, it would not have been in a position that meant the driver wasn’t able to see it.

Each year many people are injured or killed in accidents involving vehicles but improved training, planning, and awareness combined with an appropriate use of vehicles will improve the situation. Mr. Ripley’s case should be used to remind firms of their requirement to assess all risks associated with vehicle movement on premises.

Henry Williams Ltd was fined £8K and received a cost order of more than £7K after pleading guilty to a H&S breach.