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Scenery collapse turns into drama for worker

14 November 2013

A specialist company that makes scenery for London’s theatres and international fashion shows has been prosecuted after a carpenter was struck by a falling piece of a mock log cabin set.

The 35 year-old worker, from Stoke Newington, suffered skull and leg fractures when the section of scenery toppled from a forklift truck and pinned him to the ground at the Souvenir Scenic Studios workshop in Verney Road, Southwark.

The incident, on 13 October 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the company for safety failings at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the 13th November.

The court heard the carpenter, who does not wish to be named, had been employed by the studios for more than two years prior to the incident.

Souvenir Scenic Studios had made fibreglass cladding for the mock cabin, which would be fitted on a wheeled base unit made up of three sections. The whole set was being loaded into a lorry for delivery to the West End’s Adelphi theatre for a production of ‘The Bodyguard’.

The largest section of the wheeled base, which was secured on to a forklift truck by a ratchet strap, was loaded onto the lorry without falling. However, when one of two smaller 300 kg sections was put on the forks it was not secured. When it was lifted, the section unbalanced and fell from the forks, landing on top of the worker.

He eventually made a full recovery and was able to return to work within a month of the incident.

HSE’s investigation found a lack of planning for the lifting operation, which would also have identified the correct equipment to use, was the prime cause of the incident.

Souvenir Scenic Studios, of Westwaters, Oakmere, Belmont Business Park, Durham, was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £2,033 in costs after admitting a single breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Crookes said:

"This case highlights the need to properly plan and supervise lifting tasks. This worker was fortunate to make a full recovery, but the weight of these loads – 300 to 600kg – means that this could easily have had fatal or life-changing consequences.

"Safety with forklift trucks is dependent on proper planning and the selection of the right lifting accessories. If the need arises to lift something excessively heavy or awkwardly shaped, firms must ensure their employees don’t go ahead until they have all the correct equipment they need to do it safely.”