29 May, 2020
The HSE website has reported that a relocation and refurbishment company has been fined after a worker was seriously injured when he fell from height.
Luton Crown Court heard that on 5 September 2016, an engineer was testing a sprinkler system for leaks at a site in Hemel Hempstead. He climbed onto an internal roof and was inspecting the leak from an extension ladder. The ladder slipped away from him and he fell almost three metres into the gap between the internal roof and the external wall. The worker suffered severe blood loss, amounting to around half of his bloodstream. He required a blood transfusion and needed 14 stiches to his head. He also sustained a fractured vertebra and suffered soft tissue damage.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that reasonably practicable measures had not been taken to prevent a fall from the internal roof for both the engineer and other contractors working on the roof. The investigation found that Modus Workspace Limited, the principal contractor, had failed to discharge its duty to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks, in particular that of falling from height.
Modus Workspace Limited of Greencoat Place, London was found guilty after a five-week trial of breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1.1 million and ordered to pay costs of £68,116.18.
After the sentencing, HSE inspector John Berezansky, commented: "This case highlights the importance of taking reasonably practicable measures when planning and managing the risks regarding work at height within the construction industry.
"Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities and injuries in this country and the risks and control measures associated with working at height are well known.
"The engineer's injuries were life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safety measures had been put in place."
Falls from height are not uncommon in the Construction industry. The fine reflects the Courts increased sentencing powers, brought in for offences committed since the 12 March 2015, to impose large fines based on the Company's turnover. The fine imposed in this matter will not have included any discount for an early guilty plea as it went to trial. Usually a one third discount is afforded for an early plea.
Not only do companies failing to have reasonably practicable measures in place risk HSE prosecution and large fines, but they also expose themselves to the risk of a significant personal injury claim, and adverse publicity for their actions.