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Engineering firm fined after driver impaled on steel tube

A Darlington engineering firm has been fined after a delivery driver was seriously injured when a steel bar penetrated his chest.

Jason Ripley, 42, of Darlington, was delivering timber to Henry Williams Group Limited in the town's Dodsworth Street when the incident happened on 19 August 2008.

Darlington Magistrates' Court was told a horizontal swing barrier on the site, which consisted of a six metre long, 60mm diameter steel tube, had been left open by a Henry Williams Group employee to allow Mr Ripley access to the unloading point.

Mr Ripley had reversed his flat bed lorry through the open barrier so that timber on the left side could be unloaded. He then intended to drive back past the gate to turn the vehicle around and return to unload goods from the other side.

However, the court was told that as he drove toward the open barrier on his way through, the end of the horizontal bar was not visible. It had partially swung back into the carriage way and the surrounding foliage and its face-on position made it difficult to see. The bar hit the bonnet, breaking through the windscreen of the lorry and impaling Mr Ripley through the chest.

The tube entered his chest on the right side, smashing three ribs and causing damage to one lung. The pole caused a 3-4 inch diameter exit wound in his back. After being cut free by fire fighters, he was airlifted to hospital with part of the barrier still embedded in his chest.

Mr Ripley was off work for 10 weeks but has since made a full recovery.

HSE's investigation revealed Henry Williams Group Ltd had failed to assess the risks involved with vehicles driving on and off the site and there was no means of securing the swing barrier in the open position.

Henry Williams Group Limited, of Dodsworth Street, Darlington pleaded guilty to one breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,424.80.


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