HSE fines hire firm after Wirral crane collapse

Cheshire Crane Hire Ltd of Nant Road, Connah's Quay, Flintshire was yesterday fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £8,842 at Wirral Magistrates' Court after a crane, which was both overloaded and sited on soft ground, overturned.

The incident occurred at the former Champion Spark Plug premises at Arrow Brook Road at Upton, Wirral on 29 March 2007.

HSE Inspector Neil Jamieson, who investigated the incident, said: "The company's managing director Frank Preston had estimated the weight of the tower at about six tonnes, but its actual weight was more than double that figure. He also failed to explain the type of contract to his client, nor did he ask him to sign any papers, which is essential good practice.

"It is essential that for all lifting operations, proper planning – including careful assessment of the ground conditions and appropriate methods of work – should be adopted. It is fortunate in this case that nobody was hurt, but there was the potential for fatalities."

Though parked on a tarmac surface, the crane's outriggers were positioned on soft ground and it overturned whilst attempting to lift a 23 metre long steel chimney stack from the outside wall of a brick clad machinery room that was about to be refurbished. The stack fell next to the boom of the crane. Nobody was injured, but the crane's cab crushed an adjacent electricity sub station and in subsequent days the crane's diesel and hydraulic tanks leaked out, contaminating a local brook.

Cheshire Crane Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act in that it failed to ensure the safety of its employee.

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