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20th April 2023

Company Fined After Worker Fractures Back

two workers on roof

What’s Happened?

A company has recently been fined after an employee fractured his back and ribs following a fall from the roof of a house where he was working in Cheshire. Why did the accident happen, and what can you do to protect your workers from falls from a height?

Chain of Events

Employees of a window manufacturer and installer were undertaking installation works at a domestic property in Cheshire. They began by installing a rooflight, but the tower scaffold they had been provided with to undertake the works was too large and could therefore not be correctly positioned in the area where it was needed. As a result, the workers improvised and decided to make a platform using some boards from the tower and wedging them in between the roof joists to work from.

As they completed the installation of the rooflight frame, a worker stepped from the roof onto the platform, at which point one of the boards broke causing him to fall approximately 5 metres to the ground below. He suffered significant impact injuries including fractures to his back and ribs.

What Went Wrong?

The HSE undertook an investigation into the incident which highlighted that the workers employer had failed to adequately plan the work at height and did not provide suitable work equipment to ensure the works could be undertaken in a safe manner. Moreover, HSE discovered that the company’s employees had not been given any works instructions or training in working at height.

In Court

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005. They were fined £12,000.00 with £3,863.25 in costs.

What Should They Have Done?

There are three tiers of control for work at height, these are:-

  • Avoid working at height where possible;
  • Prevent falls if work at height cannot be avoided;
  • Minimize the distance and consequences of a possible fall.

A suitable risk assessment, effective planning, appropriate equipment, inspections, maintenance and employee training are all essential requirements for work at height.

It’s critical that the correct equipment is selected for the task. This will be determined following a suitable risk assessment in order to consider what the task is, the height, the length of the works and any manual handling considerations which may relate to the activities being performed. Where fall arrest equipment is selected for use, then specific training, inspections and emergency Rescue plans will need to be additionally implemented.

All employees undertaking work at height will require training to ensure they are competent in the tasks they are expected to carry out. This training should not only cover information regarding the works to be undertaken but it must convey the necessary control measures which have been implemented and how these should be used.

If you have any queries regarding work at height, risk assessments or rescue plans, then do not hesitate to contact the Lighthouse H&S advice line on 0300 303 5228.

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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