A STEEL firm owned by Rangers tycoon Sir David Murray has been fined £50,000 after an employee broke his arm and finger while lifting steel plates.
Ian Sutherland, 50, and his workmate were marking plates – each weighing more than two tonnes – with unique identifying numbers before they could be allowed into the Forth Steel factory in Edinburgh.
At the time of the incident in August 2009, it was the company’s practice to have a crane lift up the plates by approximately 18 inches using hooks, and a wooden baton placed in between each to allow operators to reach in and mark the lower plate.
Mr Sutherland, who still complains of a dull ache and has limited strength in his right arm, reached in between two plates when the upper plate slipped from the hook it was held by and fell on his arm.
His forearm was broken and required surgery to insert a six inch steel plate to support it, and his middle finger was also broken and needed to be pinned in three places.
It was revealed that just one month before the incident the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had carried out an inspection of the site, highlighting the importance of proper lifting equipment and the need for employees to have correct training and supervision.
Following the incident, a HSE investigation showed that Forth Steel Ltd – which is owned under the umbrella of Murray International Holdings – had an unsafe procedure in place for lifting the steel plates.
The investigation also concluded that the company had not carried out a suitable assessment of the risks involved when employees worked under a suspended load and that the crane operator had not received any formal lifting training, despite the company identifying this need some months earlier.
Yesterday (Wed) at Edinburgh Sheriff Court the company was fined £50,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, by failing to ensure that there was a safe system of work for lifting the plates.
Defence agent Duncan Mawby said the company had spent around £25,000 towards dealing with the unsafe system and a further £15,000 on new equipment.
Sheriff Kenneth Maciver described the incident as “an accident waiting to happen and it did happen”.
He added that the fine had been reduced from £100,000 to reflect the money the company had spent on rectifying the situation and to take account of the guilty plea.
Following the case, HSE inspector Kerry Cringan said: “This was a serious and entirely preventable incident that has left Mr Sutherland with lasting pain and discomfort, and affected his quality of life.
“Forth Steel Ltd was using a wholly inappropriate system of work, and despite previous discussions about lifting activities, used inappropriate equipment when the propriety plate grabs were available.”
A spokesperson for Forth Steel Ltd said: “We have reviewed and improved our health and safety procedures since this unfortunate accident, including the purchase and installation of new lifting equipment.”