Two companies fined after electrician fell from height and fractured skull

Two companies have been sentenced after a worker fell from a scissor lift and fractured his skull, leaving him in an induced coma.

The electrician, employed by Optilight Electrical Services Ltd, had been repairing light fittings at Expert Tooling and Automation Ltd’s site on Sayer Drive, Coventry when he fell from a scissor lift and landed on the factory floor.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted both companies following the incident on 21 September 2022.

The 52-year-old, from Sheffield, was in the cage of a raised scissor lift approximately 35 feet high when a worker at Expert Tooling began to operate a nearby overhead crane. He did not notice the electrician in the scissor lift.

The crane then collided with the scissor lift, causing it to twist and hit nearby racking before landing on the factory floor.

The electrician came out of the cage while it was falling, hitting his head on the floor and sustaining serious injuries.

A second worker at Optilight Electrical narrowly avoided being crushed by the scissor lift, jumping out of the way before it landed on the floor.

The injured worker sustained a fractured skull, two brain bleeds, a broken collarbone, eight broken ribs, a broken elbow and wrist as well as a punctured lung. He was later placed in an induced coma and underwent several operations.

A HSE investigation found that Optilight Electrical had not identified the operation of overhead cranes as a risk to its employees that were working at height at Expert Tooling’s site. Expert Tooling did not put procedures in place to prevent the use of overhead cranes while the work at height was taking place. Expert Tooling instead relied on contractors identifying risks and implementing control measures, rather than ensuring procedures were already in place. Both companies did not communicate to each other how the work they were undertaking could impact their staff’s safety at the site.

HSE guidance recommends implementing “permit to work” systems for work activities that require extra care. They are a more formal system stating exactly what work is to be done and when, and which parts are safe. Permit to work systems also provide a means of communication between site management, supervisors, operators and those who carry out the work. More on this can be found at: Human factors/ergonomics – Permit to work systems (hse.gov.uk)

Expert Tooling & Automation Ltd, of Sayer Drive, Coventry, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £1,985.97 in costs at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 29 April 2024.

Optilight Electrical Services Limited, of Oakwood Road, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,985.97 in costs at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 29 April 2024.

HSE inspector Charlotte Cunniffe said: “This case clearly illustrates the disastrous consequences that can occur when two companies each assume the other has taken responsibility for safe working practices.  Risk often arises through a failure to communicate effectively.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyers Jon Mack and Nathan Cook and supported by HSE paralegal officer Sarah Thomas.