Firefighter injured in exercise suffered multiple fractures. A fire authority has been fined after a firefighter was trapped underneath a car in a training exercise, breaking his legs in more than a dozen places.
The firefighter was setting up a simulated road traffic collision with colleagues at Stockton Fire Station, South Road, Stockton on Tees on 19 October 2020 when the incident happened.
The crew had attempted to put a car on its side to perform a ‘roof flap’ procedure in which the roof structure is removed to allow greater access.
Hydraulic spreaders were used to raise the car off the ground. When the spreaders had reached their widest and had tilted the car as far as possible, the crew tried to push the car the remaining way on to its side.
While doing this, the car fell back down towards them, hitting the firefighter and trapping him underneath the car chassis, causing serious injuries to both his legs, including fractures to his left fibula and tibia, an open fracture and dislocation to his left ankle, and 12 fractures to his right leg and foot. The firefighter was in hospital for two weeks with his injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the authority had not assessed the risks posed by the activity and therefore failed to implement a documented safe system of work.
Cleveland Fire Authority pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £600 with £7,304 costs by Teesside Magistrates’ Court on 7 December 2022.
“All organisations have a duty to risk assess their work activities and implement appropriate safe systems of work.
“This is a reminder to all fire authorities that pre-planned drill exercises should be assessed and the hazards identified and the risks controlled.”HSE inspector Clare Maltby
Employers are required by law to protect your employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum an employer must do is:
- identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Assessing risk is just one part of the overall process used to control risks in the workplace. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps that employers need to take are straightforward. Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace. An employer can undertake the risk assessment themselves or appoint a competent person to help. The five steps of a risk assessment are:
- Identify hazards
- Assess the risks
- Control the risks
- Record your findings
- Review the controls
Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards). Think about:
- how people work and how plant and equipment are used
- what chemicals and substances are used
- what safe or unsafe work practices exist
- the general state of your premises
Look back at previous accident and ill health records as these can help you identify less obvious hazards. Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or changes in production cycles. Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress. For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed.
Some workers have particular requirements, for example young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. Ensure that you involve your employees as they will usually have good ideas.
Assess the risks
Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be – this is assessing the level of risk. In assessing the level of risk, decide:
- Who might be harmed and how
- What you’re already doing to control the risks
- What further action you need to take to control the risks
- Who needs to carry out the action
- When the action is needed by
Control the risks
Look at what you are already doing, and the controls you already have in place to ensure the safety of workers and others. Consider:
- Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
- If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
If you need further controls, consider:
- redesigning the job
- replacing the materials, machinery or process
- organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process
- identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely
- providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it
Put the controls you have identified in place. It is important to remember that you are not expected to eliminate all risks but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.
Record your findings
If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings, including:
- the hazards (things that may cause harm)
- who might be harmed and how
- what you are doing to control the risks
The HSE has a number of example risk assessments on its website as a guide for employers. Employers should not rely purely on paperwork, as the main priority should be to control the risks in practice.
Review the controls
You must review the controls you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if:
- they may no longer be effective
- there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to:
- a process
- the substances or equipment used
Also consider a review if your workers have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses. You should then update your risk assessment record with any changes you make.
If you require advice on health and safety in your workplace, please contact one of the Jacksons team.
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