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York contractor prosecuted following cherry picker incident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned access platform operators of the need to take safety seriously when planning work at height after the prosecution of a York contractor and one of its employees after two men fell from a cherry picker whilst working alongside the A19 in Bootham, York.

Employee Karl Thackrah of York was fined £2,500 and costs of £3,500 at York Crown Court last week after pleading guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

At an earlier hearing on 4 September 2008 at York Magistrates Court, William Birch and Sons Ltd of Osbaldwick, York, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,500 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act.

The prosecution follows an incident on 2 August 2007 in which Karl Thackrah and Chris Cook, the platform's hirer, fell from the elevating work platform which they were using to access the first floor of Mr Cook's house in Bootham in order to touch up paintwork.

The cherry picker was sited at the side of the A19 without the necessary warning road signs to indicate that the working platform was projecting into the carriageway. Members of the public witnessed both men being seriously injured as they were thrown out of the platform and onto the road when their platform was struck by a passing lorry.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Robinson said:

"This incident caused serious injuries to two people and could have been much worse. Moreover, it need never have happened given more basic care and planning.

"Work at height must always be properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner and this is particularly important in a roadside situation where other vehicles and members of the public are involved. The company, William Birch & Sons Ltd, had provided, training information and equipment for Mr Thackrah but it failed to ensure that the particular risks involved in the work at this location were adequately assessed and controlled. Their employee, Karl Thackrah, failed to take reasonable care while setting up and operating the platform.

"The consequences were life-threatening for the two men involved, with Mr Cook being in a coma for a month. Whilst both have partially recovered there remains considerable suffering. HSE will not hesitate to prosecute in situations where people's lives are put at risk in this way."

Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states:
"It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby were not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states:
"It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work."

The maximum penalty which can be imposed by a Crown Court for either of these offences is unlimited.

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