Firms fined over accident during Shell refurb

Three companies have been fined a total of £283,332 after a man was paralysed from the waist down while working at a Shell oil refinery in Cheshire.

The Health & Safety Executive prosecuted three companies in connection with an incident at the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex near Ellesmere Port.

Shell UK Oil Products, Dalprop (formerly SG Blair & Co) and Hertel UK were fined at Warrington Crown Court on 4 January 2010.

The injured man, Stephen Rizzotti, a human resources manager, was working for SG Blair & Co (now Dalprop) on a refurbishment project at the plant in February 2007 when the incident took place. The company was removing part of the concrete lining of the 'cracker' unit, where crude oil is turned into various chemical components.

Rizzotti, who is a father of three, suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken pelvis and other injuries when a container carrying 500kg of waste materials fell 30 feet on top of him. The court heard that the incident was caused by the materials being suspended above a walkway.

Rizzotti led an active life before the incident, including running two junior football clubs. But now the 42 year old has to use a wheelchair and is rebuilding his life after being seriously injured at the oil refinery.

HSE Inspector Alan Graham said: "This incident was totally avoidable and has had a devastating impact on Mr Rizzotti and his family. The scaffolding should have been constructed so that the lifting equipment was away from areas where people had to walk. The landing area should also have been suitably protected.

"This case clearly demonstrates why it's so important for companies to put the safety of their employees first."

Rizzotti joined SG Blair & Co as a labourer in 1991 and had progressed to become the human resources manager. He said: "I can't remember anything about what happened. Half a dozen people had gone into the building before me but then, as I went in, the waste materials fell on top of me. It was touch and go at first but thanks to the doctors I survived. Now I have to get on with my life in a wheelchair. I have a simple message for all companies – safety has to be paramount."

Shell UK Oil Products and Dalprop pleaded guilty to contravening Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. Shell was fined £116,666 and ordered to pay costs of £16,204, and Dalprop was fined £83,333 with costs of £11,115.

Hertel UK installed the scaffolding and platforms used for the project. This included the boards around the lifting equipment, which became dislodged causing the container carrying waste materials to fall.

Hertel UK pleaded guilty to contravening Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £83,333 and ordered to pay costs of £16,204.

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