Letterkenny firm fined for workplace accident

Letterkenny confectionary company, Oatfields, was fined after a court heard an electrician was injured when a method used to hoist him up to fix a faulty overhead cable crashed to the ground.

Letterkenny confectionary company, Oatfields, was fined after a court heard an electrician was injured when a method used to hoist him up to fix a faulty overhead cable crashed to the ground.

Oatfields Confectionary Ltd. pleaded guilty to two charges brought by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) for breaches of the Health and Safety Act.

HSA Inspector, William Gaffney, said they were alerted in January 2010 that an accident had taken place at the company the previous December.

Led by Prosecution Barrister, Patricia McLaughlin BL, he said two employees of electrical contractor, O’Hara and Harrison, were brought in to repair a damaged overhead cable, as the sweets manufacturer were due start a production the next day.

He said it was suggested that a forklift fitted with a “cage”, normally used for transporting rubbish, be used to elevate the men to a height they could carry out the repairs.

He said this was an “extremely unsafe approach” to the job but a fork lift can be used with a specialised cage fitted. He said the contractors were entitled to say no to using the equipment but agreed with Oatfield staff that they would.

Two employees from the electrical firm, Gerard Black and Desmond McCarthy, began the job and after they had used the forklift on a number of occasions and were almost finished the cage collapsed falling 15ft. The injured party, Mr McCarthy, sustained a fractured to his head and “serious” injuries to his arm and was hospitalised for five days.

The inspector said there “could have a been a fatality”.

Oatfields co-operated fully with their investigation and had no previous convictions, he added.

The maximum penalties for the two offences was €3,000 or six months in prison, or both, for each charge.

Defence solicitor Lisa Finnegan said her client had been in business for over 85 years and had an excellent safety record.

She described it as a “very unfortunate incident” as he they normally got to “great lengths” with safety measures.

The confectionary manufacturer were very well-known in the area and had employed up to 100 people in the past and currently employ a staff of 16, she added.

Ms Finnegan said her client feared heavy fines in the case that may “have an effect in the balance sheet at the end of the year” adding they had met the case fairly and it would not happen again.

Judge Paul Kelly said he had a “certain amount of sympathy” for the company as he could see how the situation transpired but it was “unfortunate” for the employee.

He fined the firm €750 on both counts and measured costs totalling €2,750.