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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Sellafield contract firm fined after run-over worker loses leg

A £65,000 fine has been imposed on a firm after it admitted responsibility for an accident at the Sellafield nuclear plant which led to a man losing his leg.

Facilities management company Johnson Controls Ltd had earlier pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach.

At Carlisle Crown Court, prosecutor Adrian Farrow described how on May 5 last year Kenneth Brown was working as an escort for a colleague who was driving a mobile elevated working platform along a roadway on the west Cumbrian site.

His job, the court heard, was to walk in front of the platform and ensure its path was clear at all times.

As Mr Brown, 62, walked in along the road, ahead of the mobile platform, he felt something touch the back of left heel. “He then felt intense pain,” said Mr Farrow.

The driver became aware of colleagues shouting at him to stop. Because there is no brake on the mobile platform, it could not stop instantly.

The machine had run over Mr Brown’s leg, and had to be reversed off it. The pressure exerted by the weight of the machine wheel was equivalent to three tons, Mr Farrow told the court.

Describing the consequences for Mr Brown, the barrister said: “He was in intensive care for six or seven weeks and suffered a cardiac arrest. His left leg was amputated below the knee, and then again further above the knee. He was discharged on September 9.”

The court heard that as part of an ongoing claim in the civil courts, Mr Brown, who has since had to adapt to life in a wheelchair, has received an interim compensation claim of around £170,000.

Mr Farrow said that Johnson Controls Limited was under the mistaken impression that Sellafield required them to use an escort when moving the platform. Both the driver and Mr Brown had been given general safety training but they were not taught the signalling methods that should be used between a driver and the escort. Nor was there any specific training for the role of being an escort, said Mr Farrow.

Darren O’Keefe, for Johnson Controls Ltd, said the firm had an exceptional safety record. He said this was not a case of a firm showing “reckless disregard” for health and safety.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Hughes QC said that Mr Brown had not been readily visible to the driver of the mobile platform.

The accident had caused devastating consequences for Mr Brown, who had been an active man who enjoyed fell walking and playing with his grandchildren.

The judge said the basis of the prosecution had been that the use of an escort for the platform – though intended as a safety measure – had created unnecessary risk for which the appropriate precautions were not taken.

The judge added: “This is not a case of a total disregard for the safety of an employee... It’s a case of a lack of understanding of the requirements and a failure to do the right thing to safeguard employees and not expose them to risk.”

The firm must also pay prosecution costs of £8,162 and a £15 victim surcharge.

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