London tour bus operator fined by HSE

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£10,500 fine and £10,000 costs after bus drops on mechanic

The Original London Sightseeing Tour has been fined on grounds of health and safety, after a mechanical engineer suffered serious injuries while working underneath one of its double decker buses.

The Arriva-owned company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to prevent the incident, which happened on October 21, 2009, and was fined £10,500 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the 58-year-old employee was working underneath the vehicle at a bus depot at Ferry Lane, Rainham, Essex, while reseating an airbag on one of the firm’s open topped buses. The vehicle had been raised approximately two feet off the ground and was supported on its axles by wooden blocks and column vehicle lifts.

The court heard the engineer was being assisted by a colleague who was raising and lowering the bus using the vehicle lift control on his instruction. However, one of the wooden blocks broke and the axle dropped onto the mechanic breaking his pelvis and several ribs. He was hospitalised for two weeks, off work for six months, and still suffers from pain.

The HSE investigation said it found risk assessments for the site had not been properly reviewed, nor were site engineers involved in the risk assessment process. Had this been done, the company could have used another set of vehicle lifts available at the time of the incident or taken the tri-axle buses to another depot where there were numerous vehicle pits available for use.

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Jane Wolfenden said: “The use of wooden blocks in this way could easily have resulted in a fatality. It was foreseeable that the blocks were likely to give way, putting the lives of employees at risk.

“Had the company carried out an effective risk assessment which involved site engineers, this entirely preventable incident could have been avoided.”

A spokesman for the Original London Sightseeing Tour told CBW: “Immediately after this 2009 incident we carried out a full review of our processes as well as working alongside the HSE investigation team.

“We have reinforced and reiterated existing safety training, particularly in relation to improvised solutions or shortcuts being applied in our workshops where appropriate equipment is available, as part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring a safe working environment.”