Tag Archives: Falls from height

Failings in formwork safety leads to further injuries and fines

Formwork safety continues to be an area in which many sites could improve.  There are a range of courses out there which give useful qualification and skills in the management of formwork and falsework risk.  A good example of this would be the Temporary Works Supervisor Training Course (TWSTC) available from CITB.
For more information on this course see this link; TWSTC

Erector fell 3m after access scaffold board failed under load

Sager Construction Limited (SCL) and Shaun Dixon Services Ltd (SDSL) have been fined when an employee fell more than 3m when a scaffold board he was standing on failed.

Southwark Crown Court heard SCL had been appointed Principal Contractor under the CDM 2007 Regulations for the construction of a shopping centre and residential units.

On the 19 February 2015 the 64-year old employee of formwork contractor SDSL was installing a primary beam in the basement when he fell from the top of the work platform.  He  suffered fractures to both of his feet and deep cuts to his head and arms as a result.

Dangerous boards and poor working practices

On investigation the Health and Safety Executive found that operatives worked from boards which were in a poor condition. It was also revealed that particularly poor practices took place in relation to work at height

Sager Construction Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £34,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,577.

Shaun Dixon Services Ltd was also found guilty of breaching Regulation 13 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 at an earlier date.

The company has since entered liquidation but was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,119.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said:

“The worker is lucky to have not sustained more serious injuries as a result of this fall from height.

It is entirely foreseeable that accidents will occur where work at height is being carried out without suitable work platforms and other measures to prevent workers from falling.

HSE will take action to ensure that duty holders are held to account for any failings.”

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Case Law: Diversion of workers to maintenance tasks

It can be tempting to allow staff, particularly those who are helpful and keen, to undertake others tasks within your workplace.  You can sometimes hear a staff member state “I could have sorted that for you!”

When you have staff which have worked in other roles through  a diverse career and the work seems reasonably straightforward it can seem like you’re able to make a significant saving or get the work carried out more quickly.

However, you should also consider the lessons which can be learnt from the case below and many like it.

Kent based Erith Haulage Company Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £215,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,622 after an employee fell four and a half metres through a fragile skylight onto a concrete floor while cleaning a roof.

The cleaning was undertaken by two drivers, requested by the company’s foreman and took place on the weekend of the 17 and 18 January 2015.

A Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) was hired for the cleaning, but when one of the drivers could not reach a section of the roof from the MEWP he got out and stood on the roof not realising that the roof contained fragile skylights.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the roof in question was metal with gutters running along it. The skylights were located in strips over the portion of roof but were covered in dirt discolouring them and making them appear similar colour to the roof itself.

After some time cleaning, the driver noticed a section of roof left uncleaned and while walking along a section of the roof he fell through one of these skylights. He landed on a concrete floor some 4.5 metres below.

HSE prosecuted the company for its failure to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was safe, so far as reasonably practicable.

The court heard neither driver had received training or information regarding the use of the MEWP, no edge protection was in place around the roof edges to prevent falls from height, no harness or netting was used (e.g. harnesses or netting) to minimise the distance or consequences of a fall, the fragile roof lights were not covered or edge protected to prevent falls from height.

The fall caused the man to spend a month in hospital sustaining significant injuries including a fracture to the base of his skull, multiple facial fractures, and whiplash. He also suffered damage to bones in both arms which needed pins and plates, as well as leg injuries.  He was, in fact, lucky to still be alive.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said:

“This easily preventable incident resulted in life changing injuries to this man.  I want this case to raise awareness within the industry and amongst companies in general, that proper planning and operation of work at height is imperative. This case highlights the very serious consequences that may arise from oversight.”

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Client receives £160,000 fine after failure to appoint competent contractor

Both the building owner and the contractor they employed to demolish a structure have received heavy fines following safety failings which led to an uncontrolled collapse onto a high street in November 2013.

It is a requirement of CDM 2007 (now replaced by CDM 2015) that a construction client must not engage a contractor unless reasonable steps have been to ensure that the contractor is competent.

Contractor Michael Elmes was engaged to undertake demolition work by Panther AL (VAT) Ltd but HSE found in its investigation that Marton Elmes had failed to properly plan the works.  The client did not make any enquiries as to the suitability or competence of Marton Elmes to undertake the demolition work. The lack of a road closure put the general public at risk of injury.

  • Martin Elmes – of Barnacres Road, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 25(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and has been sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years.
  • Panther AL (VAT) Limited – of Deneway House, Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9128.89.

HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said after the hearing:

“Lives were put at risk when this structure uncontrollably collapsed. Clients have a responsibility to appoint competent contractors to undertake hazardous work such as demolition.

Those in control of demolition have a responsibility to plan demolition work and to devise a safe way of working that protects both the workers and members of the public.

The job could have been safely carried out by simply undertaking the demolition behind a substantial hoarding.”

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Estate agent fined £200,000 after house viewing fall

You may recall a national story regarding a viewing which went horribly wrong when a lady fell into a well within the properties garden.  The local estate agent, Strakers (Holdings) Ltd was showing the house to Mr and Mrs Driver and they were told to look around the grounds on arrival.

In the garden Mrs Driver stepped on a wooden board unaware that it was covering a deep well within the property, the board then gave way.  The board gave way and she plunged 30 feet into water below, initially being submerged in water before neighbours found a hosepipe which she managed to secure around her waist.

It was an hour before the emergency services managed to effect a rescue and she was let with head injuries, concussion and post traumatic stress disorder.

It was found in court that viewers were not warned of the presence of the well and a previous buyer had lifted the board and discovered the presence of the well.  An employee of the defendant had then visited the property and noted the wooden board but had assumed that a metal grill would had been beneath it but, crucially, had not checked this to be the case, in spite of the condition of the board which looked unsupportive.

Strakers (Holdings) Limited pleaded guilty to breaching s.3 (1)Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 plus costs of £2,474. The size of the fine reflected the fact that the accident could have been fatal and that a number of staff and visitors had been put at risk.

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Clients receives huge fine after self employed contractor falls from MEWP

falls from heightYou are most probably aware of the duties you have as a client to select contractors which are competent and adequately resourced for safety.  Sometimes you will also need to convince others within your supply chain or business of the need to complete a thorough assessment and the case below may offer assistance.

In this case a major company had employed a self employed contractor to carry out work installing updated fire detection equipment at its Yate factory site. Due to a failure to plan and supervise the work correctly an overhead conveyor was started which ultimately led to a fall of over 5 metres for from the Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) which the contractor was using.

Maintenance workers employed by Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd were unaware that starting the conveyor system would results in this tragedy as they had not been told that this work was taking place.  An HSE investigation found that there were no effective controls or supervision in place to prevent these conflicting work tasks from being undertaken at the same time.

The company pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,466.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matt Tyler said:

“This is a tragic case where the incident could have been prevented if the company had planned and controlled the work properly.”

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£2m fine for a fall and injury at breadmaker

Warburtons Limited, a large national breadmaker has been fined £2 million plus costs of £19,609.28 after a worker carrying out routine mixing machine cleaning  lost his footing and fell nearly 2 metres to the floor below.falls from height

He was hospitalised and suffered a compression fracture to his spine and was unable to return to his work for several months. He was unable to return to his original role and was dismissed in December 2015 after a long period of sick leave.

An HSE investigation found that the firm routinely asked its employees to access the top of the mixers when they undertook cleaning tasks, in order to do this the workers had to access and then brace themselves to prevent themselves from falling.

It was found that supervision was not adequate and no training had taken place on how cleaning risks at height could be controlled.

HSE Inspector Mahesh Mahey commented;

“This case highlights how important it is for companies to fully assess the risks from work activities at height and to take appropriate action to prevent injury in the workplace.

This should have been prevented, falls from height is one of the biggest killers in the workplace and even falls from fairly low levels can be extremely dangerous. Mr Sears life has been changed forever but his injuries could have been more severe.”

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Solar panel installer falls through fragile asbestos roof, company fined more than £20,000

solar_farm_imageNorwich-based Durrant Electrical and Mechanical Ltd, trading as Green Home Energy Solutions, had admitted a single charge of breaching working at height regulations on September 26, 2013.

The accident occurred when employee Chris Eldon was measuring up an asbestos roof on a tractor shed at Woodland Farm, near Watton.  He was completing this work without the use of crawling boards.

Klentiana Mahmutaj, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said Mr Eldon suffered severe concussion, a fractured wrist and bruising to the base of his spine when it gave way and he fell 2m to the ground.

An HSE investigation had found the company had carried out an inadequate risk assessment and planning for working on an inadequate roof.  The HSE Inspector added no-one from Durrant Electrical and Mechanical had been on site to brief Mr Eldon before he and apprentice Kyll Staff had started work.

“What should have happened was for the roof to be assessed by a competent person, who would have concluded it was fragile,” she said, adding falling from a roof could often lead to death or serious injuries.

Julia Kendrick, defending the firm, said Mr Eldon had worked for the company since 2011 and had been been given training in health and safety and working at heights. She added: “He was very experienced and he had significant training to make him aware of the risks which were inherent in the kind of work he was undertaking.

“The injured person had completed more than 100 installations. He was a supervisor on some jobs and they considered him extremely competent. Systems were in place but were not sufficiently adhered to or implemented.”

Durrant Electrical and Mechanical had had to lay off workers after a downturn in the renewables sector, the court was told. After making a £95,000 profit in 2015, it had so far lost £25,000 this year.

“They are struggling to pay their workers and stay afloat,” said Miss Kendrick, adding the company had no previous accidents or convictions.

Under the new sentencing guidelines firms can be fined between £14,000 and £250,000 for breaches. Judge Sell ordered it to pay £14,000, with £7,000 costs, commenting: “I’ve certainly not seen any evidence of serious or systemic failings to assess risks to health and safety.”

Durrent Electrical and Mechanical was given two years to pay.

After the hearing directors Kerry and Debbie Durrant, who were present in court, declined to comment.

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Unbelievable, tragic and wholly avoidable

falls from heightA six year jail sentence under gross negligence manslaughter, a fine of £400,000 and £55,000 costs hit Allan Thomson, director of demolition firm, Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd. The firm who subcontracted this work to them, C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were also fined for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations, Director Michael Smith was jailed for eight months, fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 court costs.

Two of Mr Thomson’s workers fell from the roof they were dismantling on the same day, one suffered life changing injuries and the second person died from major head trauma.

The chain of events which led to these tragic accidents are scarcely believable, read on below to find out more.

Originally C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd were contracted to carry out demolition of some buildings in Stockport in 2014, this work was then subcontracted to Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

A method known as remote demolition was selected which meant minimal risk to staff as it was to be carried out using machinery.  However, after winning the control Mr Smith decided to dismantle the building piece by piece requiring work at height to remove roofing sheets  prior to the structure being dismantled – this work being subcontracted to Allan Thompson of Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

Repeated failures

In January four men employed by Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd travelled to Stockport to carry out the task of taking the roof apart piece by piece including a 47-year-old man who would sustain life-changing injuries and 42-year-old Scott Harrower, who died as a result of the negligence of Thomson.

The roof comprised corrugated steel sheets and plastic skylights. The skylights had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair this damage.

On 20 January 2014, Mr Harrower stepped on a skylight but somehow managed to prevent himself falling 30ft to the concrete floor below.  Despite this very serious “near miss” the men returned to continue their work the next day.

At just after 9am on Tuesday 21 January 2014, one of the group fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Ambulance and police attended the scene which was “deemed to be an accident” and after advice was given regarding the obligation to inform HSE the police officers left the scene.

Near miss turns into fatal fall

Despite their colleague suffering these horrific injuries, the workmen men were ordered to return to the roof just hours later. At 4pm Scott Harrower, the same person who had almost fallen the previous day, fell through another skylight to the concrete below suffering catastrophic head injuries which led to his death.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales commented:

“It is clear from the evidence that both Smith and Thomson saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof, and as a direct result of that greed Scott died and another man suffered life-changing injuries.

Smith and Thomson’s remorse did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally.

Thankfully, the jury saw through their attempts and both now can face justice for the decisions that they made, decisions that have robbed one family of a loving partner, father, and son, and another of a man’s ability to live a life untainted by severe physical injury.”

HSE Inspector Sandra Tomlinson, said:

“Falls from height, and in particular falls involving fragile roofs, are one of the main causes of work-related deaths in Britain. The risks are therefore well-known and documented, as is the guidance on how to reduce these risks.

The roof dismantling works were not properly planned or supervised and adequate precautions, such as netting, were not put in place.

This led to two men falling in separate incidents and resulted in one man suffering life-changing injuries as well as the dreadful tragedy of Mr Harrower’s death.”

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