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Bus manufacturer in court over safety failings

25 February 2014

A major international bus and coach manufacturer has been sentenced after a worker was injured at its Sheffield plant after falling from a poorly-guarded gantry.

Alexander Dennis Ltd, of Edinburgh, which employs some 2,000 people, appeared before Rotherham Magistrates on the 24th February after admitting safety failings following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident on 7 June 2012.

The employee, who does not wish to be named, fell two metres to the ground from the platform of a gantry when he got too close to an open edge as he worked on the exterior of a double-decker. He suffered head injuries, a broken and dislocated elbow and a fractured big toe. He has since recovered and returned to work.

HSE found the company, which trades locally as Plaxtons, had not provided employees with a safe method of working at height, failed to suitably train them to carry out that type of work, and provided them with gantries that were unsuitable.

The court was told the 55-year-old employee, from Rotherham, was working a nightshift with a colleague and was preparing the top level of a double-decker bus for painting at the Plaxtons site at Ryton Road, Anston, South Yorkshire, where vehicles are repaired and refurbished.

The platform he was on did not have a gate or bar fitted to the access steps and as he worked on the bus exterior, he moved closer to the open edge, took a step too far, lost his balance and fell.

HSE’s investigation revealed that all four gantries at the site were unstable and inadequately guarded. Only two had a single metal bar hinged across the access steps and none had inner guard rails to properly protect employees from falls. They did not extend the length of a bus so workers would move along by pushing against the vehicle while standing on the gantries, which were set on wheels but with no brakes.

Alexander Dennis Ltd, registered at Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, was fined a total of £26,800 and ordered to pay £5,286 in costs after admitting single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety Regulations.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Denise Fotheringham said: "Alexander Dennis Ltd did not properly assess the risks its workers faced in performing their day-to-day work and the gantries provided to them were obviously not fit for purpose. "In addition, the workers themselves had not been given the right training for working at height, which is one of the most dangerous elements in any industry. "For a company of its size and reputation, I would have hoped that Alexander Dennis would be setting the standards in safety at its sites. Instead, this is one of a number of cases in the recent past where HSE has had to take enforcement action against the company. "Work at height is inherently fraught with risk and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury.”

Information on safe working at height is available at www.hse.gov.uk/falls/