The recent prosecution of a manufacturer and contractor hired to carry out repairs to pipework at its factory following a fall from height highlights the importance of ensuring work at height is properly risk assessed and planned.
The court heard that workers were accessing the roof of the factory using a forklift truck and a ‘man cage’. The cage fell short of the roof level by about 3ft which mean they had to climb across a gap to reach the roof. The roof itself was slippery and wet and had no barriers or protection in place to prevent a fall.
Unfortunately a worker slipped and fell, resulting in head injuries, permanent blindness to one eye and blurred vision in the other.
The HSE investigation found that the work had not been planned, managed or monitored properly, particularly when it came to access to the roof. Neither the contracting company nor the factory client had carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, nor had they agreed on how the pipework repair could be carried out safely. Each company assumed that the other one had put in place systems to protect the workers working at height.
The contracting company was fined £18,000 with costs of £9,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which places a duty on every employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.
The client company was fined £100,000 with costs of £20,00 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which places a duty on employers to ensure that people not in his employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.
Speaking after the case the HSE Inspector commented: “This incident highlights the need for contractors to be managed properly. Both the contractors and those engaging them must assess the risks of the site and the specific work to ensure it can be done safely. In this case, no risk assessment was carried out and arrangements made to access the roof put workers at significant risk of falling from height.”