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Shetland firm fined after worker injured in fall

A Shetland engineering company has been fined after a worker was severely injured when he fell while dismantling a redundant aerial mast.

David Thomson, 22, was working as part of a team removing the mast at the former RAF remote radar head at Unst, Shetland, when the incident happened on 23 August 2010.

Mr Thomson and his colleagues were working from inside the mast and were unbolting pieces of metal and wood and loading them into a telehandler with a bucket attachment, so that they could be safely lowered to the ground.

When they encountered some difficulty unbolting a piece of metal they could not fully reach from inside the mast, the men agreed to stand in the bucket attachment so that they could be lifted up and unbolt the metal from the outside.

They then balanced the piece of metal, which was about four metres long, on the bucket as it was lowered to the ground. But when they were still eight or nine feet off the ground the metal slipped, and a smaller piece of metal caught the back of Mr Thomson's boiler suit, catapulting him out of the bucket to the ground below.

Mr Thomson fractured a vertebrae in his back, broke his left arm in two places, broke his thumbs and received multiple abrasions to his face and neck. He was off work for nine weeks and still has some residual pain in his back.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that although Ness Engineering Ltd had carried out a risk assessment for the dismantling operation, it was not part of the planned system of work to use the bucket attachment on the telehandler, nor to access the mast from the outside.

At Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday (21 September) Ness Engineering Ltd, of Stuartfield, Virkie, Shetland pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £26,700.

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