Companies fined after unsupervised fall from height

Falls in the workplace are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury. Falls account for:

  • an average of 40 fatal injuries a year (28% of the total)
  • around 43,000 non-fatal injuries a year (7% of self-reported non-fatal injuries)

In the latest statistic, two companies have been fined after a worker suffered serious spinal injuries in falling from a fragile roof.

A window and door fitter had been contracted to replace a garage roof and their employee was on the roof when it gave way.

Unsafe 

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the work was not properly planned, appropriately supervised or carried out in a safe manner.

The investigation found Aster Property Limited, as the client, had failed in its duty to:

  • control how the work was done
  • make sure hired contractors worked safely

The work was carried out by Stuart Barnes Limited who failed to plan the work properly and in a safe manner.

Some employees had been trained to fit windows but not work on roofs.

Risks well known

Aster Property Limited pleaded guilty to breaking the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

It was fined £14,600 and must pay £5,015 in costs.

Stuart Barnes Limited admitted breaking the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

It was fined £8,000 and also ordered to pay costs of £5,015.

The HSE said the risks associated with working at height are well known and that the incident could easily have been avoided by correct control measures and safe working practices.

What the law says

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 set out the duties on employers and anyone else controlling the work of others.

There is no specific height at which the regulations apply. It is simply work at any height where there’s a risk of a fall causing injury.

The regulations set out the following work hierarchy:

  • organise work to avoid the need to work at height
  • where work at height cannot be avoided, use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls
  • if it’s not possible to eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to mitigate the consequences of a fall

The regulations also require:

  • all work at height be properly planned and organised
  • account is taken of weather conditions
  • those involved are trained and competent
  • additional precautions are taken where there are fragile surfaces
  • workplaces, equipment, means of access, etc are adequately inspected
  • any risk of injury from falling objects is eliminated

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