£1.5m fine after worker falls through unsecured crane panel

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World-renowned steelwork contractor Cleveland Bridge has been fined £1.5m after an electrician fell eight metres to his death from a gantry crane.

Teesside Crown Court heard that an access panel on the raised walkway of the large overhead crane gave way beneath Keith Poppleton as he walked along it on the day of the incident, 25 October 2016. The father of three had been repairing wiring that had been causing a short circuit on the lifting equipment.

He sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at hospital.

HSE found the company had failed to maintain the crane walkway’s access panels, which had been used to replace lighting fittings some months earlier.

Electrician Keith Poppleton died after falling eight metres through a loose panel in the crane's walkway. Photograph: HSE

Also, the panel itself had been subject to weld repair, and there was no evidence of any steps being taken to ensure that the panel was safely replaced into the void and secured to ensure it did not fail.

Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd of Darlington, which has worked on world-famous structures, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Wembley Stadium arch, was found guilty of breaching multiple health and safety laws. These were sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, Regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 8(b)(i) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Despite going into administration in September last year with reported debts of £21m, the company was fined £1.5m and ordered to pay costs of £29,239.

Mr Poppleton was a former college lecturer in electrical engineering who leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Investigating HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said: “Mr Poppleton and others were at risk from serious injury while walking on a gantry 26 feet high, as the company had failed to assess the risk of these access platforms, which should be secured in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

“This was an incident, which could easily have been prevented had the company considered the risks associated with such access panels not being secured in place following maintenance work and general wear and tear.”



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