Dangerous work at height leads to fine

A coach fabricator has appeared in court after an apprentice was seriously injured in a fall from height.

The court heard the worker was helping clean workshop roof gutters when he stepped back onto a fragile skylight. He fell 30 feet to the floor below.

The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found the

  • work at height activity had not been properly supervised
  • risks associated with working at height and on fragile surfaces had not been identified

Bespoke Bodies Ltd pleaded guilty to breaking the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The Health & Safety failings landed the company a £20,000 fine with costs of £3,300.

Common cause of injury

The fine highlights the dangers involved in working at height.

Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related injuries. More than 4,000 people a year in the UK suffer major injuries working at height.

The HSE say the risks of working at height are well known and that “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary instruction and training to their workers”.

Safe steps to working at height

A common cause of incidents is a failure to take sufficient precautions especially when working at relatively low heights. Most of the major injuries are from falls of less than two metres.

Risks are often underestimated and work not properly planned. But work at height is a risky business. Risks need to be properly assessed and work carefully planned even at relatively low heights.

An organisation’s safety culture will strongly influence the way its workers work at height and therefore the likelihood of incidents. Many organisations comply with the basic legal requirements by providing workers with the correct PPE and basic training. But many employers end their efforts there. In other words if an accident happens it’s the worker’s fault.

Yet meeting the basic legal requirements alone may not be enough to keep workers safe and avoid serious incidents. More progressive organisations with strong safety cultures can dramatically improve safety practices. Demonstrating you care about the health, safety and wellbeing of your workers may instil positive safety behaviour. Management should regularly inspect equipment and practices on-site. Encourage feedback from workers and communicate best practices.

Ellis Whittam discuss how to develop a positive safety culture here.

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