The recent prosecution of Muller UK & Ireland Group LLP after a worker's fragile roof fall demonstrates the importance of ensuring all work at height activities are risk assessed before any work is carried out.
In this latest incident, workers were changing the refrigeration gas of the chilled storage units at Muller's Trafford Park premises. The workers were in the roof void above the chilled units when one of them stood on a fragile fire board panel as the edge of the roof space. He fell between the chilled unit and the building shell, injuring his head and body.
The subsequent HSE investigation found that the workers had carried out this routine task on several occasions, but had never been given information about the fragile roof panels and that the company had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment before allowing access to the area. In addition, the fragile roof panels were not clearly visible, had no warning markings or barriers to prevent access to the fragile area.
Muller UK & Ireland Group LLP pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 which states that “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.” As a result, the company was fined £400,00 with costs.
Following the case the HSE Inspector said “This case highlights how important it is that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is undertaken for all work at height and work within roof voids, to identify the potential for fragile panels to be present. Falls from height through fragile roofs remain a common cause of life changing or fatal injuries for individuals at work”.
Work at height is by nature dangerous, so it is essential that before any work is undertaken, a thorough risk assessment is carried out to ensure the work can be done safely and appropriate safety measures are in place. If a task is routine, you still need to assess the work as situations can change.
Our Planning for Work at Height Blog outlines how to plan work through audits and risk assessments.