A cleaning contractor, who was found guilty of failing to provide a safe place of work after an accident in which a worker fell from a man-basket attached to a teleporter, was last month fined €500 by the Dublin District Court.
The court heard that the cleaning contractor, who pleaded not guilty to failing to provide a safe system of work while cleaning a house which had been renovated, used a teleporter with a man-basket attached to gain access to high areas that had be cleaned.
While being manoeuvred, the man-basket slid off the teleporter’s fork and fell to the ground. The worker who was being carried in the man-basket suffered a torn liver and artery and was in a coma for three days. He was in hospital for 13 days.
HSA inspector John Clooney told the court that the cleaning contractor had taken it on himself to manoeuvre the teleporter and man-basket, though he had never driven a teleporter before. The inspector said the contractor 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 inspector said, the type of work which should have been done using a mobile elevated work platform, which is also known as a cherry-picker. There was a warning sign on the side of the machine, which stated chains should have been attached to the teleporter to prevent the man-basket falling off. There were none.
The court was told that the cleaning contractor had been informed that there would be a driver on site to operate the teleporter. However on the day, no one was there to do so. A builder at the house told the cleaning contractor he would have to drive it himself.
He told the court he had never operated a teleporter before. He said he spent 15 minutes reading a manual to familiarise himself with the machine, before he started using it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do, but he was under financial pressure at the time. The court heard that he was extremely upset at what happened to his employee.
Imposing sentence, Judge John O’Neill noted that the subcontractor had been told that a teleporter driver would be available at the house. He also noted that the subcontractor felt obliged to complete the work for the contractor.
However, the judge said, to use the machinery without knowing much about it was courting disaster. Noting that the subcontractor was a father of three children who was trying to rebuild his business, Judge O’Neill imposed a fine of €500 and ordered him to pay the HSA’s cost of €2,000. (HSA v Smith: Dublin Metropolitan District Court, February 2015)