A South London businessman and his company, Granite Express Ltd (which went into liquidation in November 2012) based in Beddington Lane, Croydon, have been prosecuted for violating health and safety regulations by Westminster magistrates for an incident where an employee was almost crushed by collapsing stone slabs. The dangerous incident occurred on 16 February 2012 when workmen were unloading the two tonne set of ten slabs from a lorry, when suddenly they fell from the side of it.
Radoslaw Samson, 24, an employee at Granite Express, had just removed supporting packaging from the slabs so that they could be moved by a forklift when the incident occurred. The slabs toppled when he was making necessary adjustments to the lifting arm of the forklift. Mr Samson and his colleague attempted to jump from the side of the lorry, however Samson was hit by the heavy slabs and subsequently sustained a broken leg and severe bruising to his right side. He was on crutches for six months and was rendered unable to work for ten; he did not return to employment at the company.
Granite Express Ltd and its former director Przemyslaw Zalecki, 37 were investigated and resultantly prosecuted by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident. They were charged with joint safety failings. The company had once before been served a prohibition notice by the HSE when a routine inspection in June 2010 discovered that the lifting arm of the crane was it was not suitable for operating. Mr. Zalecki was advised on how to better adhere to workplace health and safety protocols and how to more effectively assess the risk of equipment used to transport stone slabs.
It was later discovered that the same crane was still in use at the company even after the injuries that Mr Samson sustained. Furthermore, it was found that in addition to the fact that the crane had not received required servicing and maintenance; workers had not been trained adequately to operate this machinery. There was no safe work practice in place and also a lack of supervision for workers provided by Mr Zalecki and his company. Granite Express Ltd admitted two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act l974 and was fined a total of £2,000 with £5,000 in costs. Przemyslaw Zalecki was also fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs after he admitted to two similar violations of the Act.
Following the hearing, Jane Wolfenden, a HSE inspector stated –
“A young man was very seriously injured because of the cavalier attitude tor safety by Mr Zalecki and his company, Granite Express Ltd. Bearing in mind the weight of these stone slabs, it is fortunate that this was not a double fatality.
“Despite the high risk of serious personal injury involved in the handling and moving of stone slabs being well known in the industry, and despite specific advice to devise a safe system of work for unloading them from a vehicle, the defendants failed to respond.
“The attitude towards health and safety was so poor that the company even permitted the continued use of a lifting attachment that had been subject to a prohibition notice.
“HSE will not hesitate to take action against either companies or their directors whose approach to the wellbeing of their employees fall so well below accepted standards.”