Firm denies breaches led to accident

Mark Priestley
Mark Priestley

A firm denied health and safety breaches led to a worker becoming partially paralysed - saying his own “common sense” could have avoided the accident.

However, Elland Steel Structures did accept its health and safety practices were not up to standard in a hearing at Calderdale Magistrates’ Court.

Mark Priestley was left with permanent injuries, including partial paralysis below the waist, when a six tonne metal beam fell on him at the firm’s Gibbet Street site in Halifax.

The court heard Mr Priestley had been moving the beam when one of the chains from an overhead crane became stuck underneath.

He pulled on the chain and that caused the beam to fall but he had received no formal training and it was left to workfloor staff to assess all risks involved.

Henry Kirkup, mitigating, said: “While the risk assessment was defective there is nothing in an assessment that would have said not to grab a chain and pull it with the risk it may fall on top of you.

“The risks associated with the performance of this activity should have been clear to Mark Priestley with common sense but also given his experience.”

Geoff Fletcher, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: “The lack of assessment and supervision are crucial to the incident. It’s all bound together in a health and safety assessment that was inadequate.” The firm’s managing director Mark Denham entered a guilty plea to breaching the health and safety guidelines on a basis that this did not lead to Mr Priestley’s injuries.

Mr Kirkup confirmed that since the incident the firm had revised its practices and the court saw examples of the new fuller risk assessments that are now in place.

Magistrates ruled that a further hearing was needed to determine whether the basis of the firm’s plea was acceptable.

They adjourned the case to Bradford Crown Court on October 16.