herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

A CLEANING contractor has been spared a one-year jail sentence after an employee was severely injured in a work-place accident which left him in a coma for three days.

A CLEANING contractor has been spared a one-year jail sentence after an employee was severely injured in a work-place accident which left him in a coma for three days.

Gregory Smith, 48, with an address, at Rockfield Road, Kells, Co. Meath was fined €500 and ordered to pay €2,000 in legal costs after he was found guilty at Dublin District Court of breaking the Safety and Health and Welfare at Work Act.

His employee Joseph McCrink was hospitalised for 13 days after an elevated platform collapsed, Judge John O'Neill heard.

Smith, who had contested the case, was prosecuted following a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation into the accident which happened during work at a house at Hazelhatch, Newcastle, Co. Dublin on September 4, 2013.

He had thought a qualified driver for the machinery, which was already on site, was supposed to have been provided and he was under pressure to get the job done, the court heard.

HSA inspector John Cloney had told Judge Judge O'Neill a "man-basket", a mobile working platform, carrying the employee slid off a teleporter's forks and fell to the ground.

Mr McCrink, who had serious injuries and was in a coma for three days, suffered a torn liver and artery.

The teleporter and man-basket had been used to provide access to high areas for cleaning.

Mr Cloney told Sinead McMullen BL, prosecuting, that on the day of the accident Smith was finding it hard to see his employee up in the man-basket due to the angle of the sun and water from a pressure spray.

The safety inspector alleged Mr Smith had taken it on himself to manoeuvre the teleporter and the basket then fell off. He had also told Judge O'Neill that Mr Smith had never driven a site teleporter before.

A warning sign on the side of the machine stated there should have been chains attached to the teleporter to prevent the man-basket falling off but there were none, the court was told.

It was the type of work which should have been done with a mobile elevated platform, also known as a cherry-picker, Mr Cloney said.

The court heard that the cleaning work had been subcontracted to Smith who had been informed that there would be a driver on site to operate the machinery. Smith told Judge O'Neill that he had been told when he started the job that there was no one there to drive the teleporter.

A builder at the house told him he would have to drive it himself. He said he had operated other types of machinery before but admitted he had never driven a teleporter.

He spent 15 minutes reading a manual to familiarise himself with the machine before he started using it, he told defence counsel Shay Fleming. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do but he was under financial pressure, he said. The court also heard that he was extremely upset at what happened to his employee.

Judge O'Neill noted Smith had been promised that a driver would be available at the site and that he had been under pressure. However, he said to use machinery without knowing much about it was "courting disaster". He also noted that father-of-three Smith, who is trying to rebuild his business, had no previous convictions and that he had felt obliged to complete the work for the primary contractor.

The offence can result in a fine of up to and a one-year jail term as well as a possible fine of up to €5,000 plus legal fees.

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