Court imposes fines three years after container fell on man at oil refinery leaving him confined to a wheelchair

Three companies have been fined a total of £283,332 today after a man was paralysed from the waist down while working at a Shell oil refinery in Cheshire.

The case related to an incident almost three years ago when Stephen Rizzotti was working for S.G. Blair and Co. (now Dalprop Ltd) on a refurbishment project at the plant.

Rizzotti, who is a father of three, suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken pelvis and other injuries when a container carrying 500kg of waste materials fell 30ft landing on him. The court heard that the incident was caused by the materials being suspended above a walkway.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) successfully prosecuted the three companies responsible. Shell UK Oil Products Ltd, Dalprop Ltd (formerly S.G. Blair and Co. Ltd) and Hertel UK Ltd were fined at Warrington Crown Court today.

Rizzotti led an active life before the incident, including running two junior football clubs. But now the 42 year old has to use a wheelchair and is rebuilding his life.

Mr Rizzotti joined SG Blair and Co as a labourer in 1991 and had progressed to become the human resources manager. He said: “I can’t remember anything about what happened.”

“It was touch and go at first but thanks to the doctors I survived. Now I have to get on with my life in a wheelchair. I have a simple message for all companies – safety has to be paramount.”

HSE inspector Alan Graham said: “This incident was totally avoidable and has had a devastating impact on Mr Rizzotti and his family.

“The scaffolding should have been constructed so that the lifting equipment was away from areas where people had to walk. This case clearly demonstrate why it’s so important for companies to put the safety of their employees first.”

Shell UK Oil Products and Dalprop pleaded guilty to contravening Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. Shell was fined £116,666 and ordered to pay costs of £16,204, and Dalprop was fined £83,333 with costs of £11,115.

Hertel UK, who installed the faulty scaffolding, pleaded guilty to contravening Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £83,333 and ordered to pay costs of £16,204.