Electrician Keith Poppleton, 54, was repairing an electric overhead travelling crane on 25th October 2016 in the steelwork contractor’s Darlington plant when he fell eight metres to the floor. He sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at hospital.
Teesside Crown Court heard that he had been repairing wiring that had been causing a short circuit on gantry crane. As he was walking along the crane’s walkway, an access panel gave way beneath his feet.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Cleveland Bridge had failed to maintain the crane walkway’s access panels, which had been used to replace lighting fittings some months earlier. 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 Yarm Road, Darlington was found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc 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. It was fined £1.5m and ordered to pay costs of £29,239.
HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said after the hearing: “Mr Poppleton and others were at risk from serious injury whilst 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 that 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.”
Cleveland Bridge fell into administration on 22nd July 2021 with debts of £21.7m and is currently being wound up. Latest statement of affairs from the administrators shows £6.6m owed to trade creditors, £2m to UK Export Finance and more than £3m to HM Revenue & Customs. As of 1st January this year it had £287,000 in the bank.