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Hull firm fined £17,000 as employee loses left arm in tyre explosion

 A tyre fitting company from Hull has been fined £17,000 after a large crane tyre exploded as an employee was inflating it, causing injuries that required the amputation of his left arm.

The prosecution was brought by Hull City Council, which found that Moss Tyres had failed to provide employee David Ralph with adequate equipment to hold the tyre in place as it was being inflated or contain any parts ejected by an explosion.

Ralph, 33,  was employed by Moss Tyres as a mobile tyre technician and Hull Crown Court heard how on 10 December 2015 he was working with a colleague at the premises of mobile crane operator Sangwin Group on Dansom Lane South in Hull.

The two men were re-assembling multi-piece crane wheels and putting the tyres back on the wheel rims.

 

The force of the explosion was so strong that a container in neighbouring premises was damaged and debris from the tyre was found there

 

They started to inflate the first tyre on a pallet, but it suddenly exploded before it reached the standard pressure.

For the prosecution, Stephen Robinson told the court that Ralph was standing 1 m away from the tyre at the time of the explosion.

“This was to ensure the rim was going in properly,” Robinson told the court, according to a report in the Hull Daily Mail.

Ralph was “plunged high into the air," he said, and was also injured by parts of a locking nut on the wheel that were fired out by the explosion.

The victim suffered multiple fractures to his arms and lacerations to his face. Ralph was left-handed, but the damage to his left arm was so severe that amputation was necessary to save his life.

Robinson told the court: “These injuries have had a life changing impact on his family. He has no ability to grip and no strength from his right arm.

"He has difficulties in day to day life and struggles to pick up his three children", said Robinson. “He had been very active before this incident and would do DIY and play with his children in the garden. He cannot do that now."

The force of the explosion was so strong that a container in neighbouring premises was damaged and debris from the tyre was found there (see picture above).

However, Ralph’s colleague was not injured by the explosion.


Moss Tyres had a tyre cage at its own premises, which was too small to contain the crane tyre

The investigation by environmental health officers from Hull City Council’s public protection division found that Moss Tyres had provided Ralph and his colleague with inadequate equipment to hold the wheel in place during inflation.

Moss Tyres was aware of the risk involved in tyre inflation and that precautions should have been taken.

A generic risk assessment had been carried out in 2010, and the company felt that it was sufficient for an employee to be standing a safe distance away when a very large tyre was being inflated on a vehicle.

Reminders were issued to Moss Tyres employees in 2012 and 2015 that a cage should be used where available.

There was a cage at Moss Tyres’ own premises, but it was not large enough to contain the crane tyre involved in the accident at Sangwin Group.

The incident was examined by an HSE specialist inspector who concluded that any reasonable safe system of work based on HSE guidance would have required the wheel to be placed into a suitable cage or frame, with the employee outside an area adjacent to the tyre.

Moss Tyres pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

For the defence, Iain Simkin told the court that the directors of the company had felt "real remorse" over the accident involving Ralph, a long-term employee and family friend.

 

The work he was involved in on the day it happened was high-risk in nature and Mr Ralph should have been afforded a series of protections by his employer. Unfortunately, this was not the case

Councillor Mike Thompson, Hull City Council

 

"This was very much a one-off, they have pleaded guilty and have an impeccable health and safety record," he said.

The court heard that Moss Tyres had employed Ralph in an administrative role after the accident and had paid him the same wage.

Simkin said that the victim had still wanted to work for the business despite the accident and was seeking a civil lawsuit after returning to work five months later.

In sentencing, Judge Paul Watson said: “On the face it, these are very serious injuries sustained, which would class the fine at £33,000.

“However, because the company is a small business with a small profit margin, I would be inclined to drop that figure.

"It speaks volumes that this man, Mr Ralph, wanted to come back to work and work for the company despite what had happened," he said.

The judge fined Moss Tyres £17,000 and ordered the company to pay prosecution costs of £24,638, plus a statutory court charge of £120.

Speaking after the hearing, Khaled Choudhury, principal environmental health officer at Hull City Council, said: “This extremely serious and avoidable accident had life-changing consequences for Mr Ralph.

“The work he was involved in on the day it happened was high-risk in nature and Mr Ralph should have been afforded a series of protections by his employer. Unfortunately, this was not the case.”

Councillor Mike Thompson, portfolio holder for public protection at Hull City Council, said: “Protecting the health, safety and welfare of workers is a priority for Hull City Council.

“We act as a co-regulator with the HSE in accordance with the Joint Statement of Commitment and will work with local communities, which includes businesses, to reduce work-related death, injuries and ill health.”

From: https://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/news-and-prosecution/hull-firm-fined-17-000-as-employee-loses-left-arm-in-tyre-explosion

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