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Cleveland Fire Authority fined in wake of training exercise

12 December 2022

CLEVELAND FIRE Authority has been fined after a firefighter was trapped underneath a car in a training exercise, breaking his legs in more than a dozen places. The firefighter involved was setting up a simulated road traffic collision with colleagues at Stockton Fire Station on the South Road in Stockton on Tees on 19 October 2020 when the incident happened.

The crew had attempted to put a car on its side in order to perform a ‘roof flap’ procedure in which the roof structure is removed to allow greater access. Hydraulic spreaders were used to raise the car off the ground. When the spreaders had reached their widest and had tilted the car as far as possible, the crew tried to push the car the remaining way on to its side.

While doing this, the car fell back down towards them, hitting the firefighter and trapping him underneath the car chassis, causing serious injuries to both his legs, including fractures to his left fibula and tibia, an open fracture and dislocation to his left ankle and 12 fractures to his right leg and foot. The firefighter subsequently spent two weeks in hospital.

An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the Cleveland Fire Authority had not assessed the risks posed by the activity and therefore failed to implement a documented safe system of work.

During a hearing conducted at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 7 December 2022, Cleveland Fire Authority (based at Endeavour House on the Queens Meadow Business Park in Hartlepool) pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £600 with £7,304 costs.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Clare Maltby stated: “All organisations have a duty to risk assess their work activities and implement appropriate safe systems of work. This episode is a timely reminder for all fire authorities that pre-planned drill exercises should be thoroughly assessed, any hazards identified and, importantly, the risks controlled.”