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Building firm in court over worker’s multiple injuries

Date:
5 November 2013

A North Yorkshire-based construction company has admitted safety failings that led to one of its employees suffering a fractured skull and eight broken ribs in a four-metre fall.

The 50 year-old construction worker, from Masham, was using a saw to cut through steel sheets of a mezzanine floor when he started to unbalance. He threw the saw through a hole in the metal framework and then fell himself, hitting the concrete floor below.

The incident, on 7 August 2012 at a unit on the Pool Business Park on the outskirts of Leeds, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Ripley-based HACS Construction Ltd at Leeds Magistrates’ Court today (5 Nov).

The court heard the firm had been contracted to lower the mezzanine floor it had previously installed. The injured worker and a colleague had already broken up and disposed of all the concrete and were working on removing the steel sheeting, working in sections and dropping the cut metal to the floor below.

At one point as a steel sheet fell, the employee felt his boot getting closer to an open edge, looked through the hole he had created and felt a panic. He threw the saw through the hole and then fell himself. Although he sustained multiple injuries, he has since been able to return to work.

Magistrates heard HSE found the HACS Construction Ltd had not put any precautions in place to prevent falls from the mezzanine level during the work. The safety harnesses they had provided to the two workers were unsuitable and neither had been given training in how to use them.

HSE said the company had considered the use of a ‘crash deck’ – a safe working platform – at the outset of the work. However, a decision was made not to proceed as it would save time.

HACS Construction Ltd of Nidderdale House, Station Yard, Ripley, Harrogate, was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £7,847 towards costs after admitting two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andy Denison said:

“It is shocking that some construction firms – which are well aware of the high levels of death and injury in their sector as well as the risks involved – are still not fully considering the safety of site workers.

“There were many failings by HACS Construction Ltd that HSE discovered. They had not properly assessed the risks of the job; they didn’t provide the correct equipment to allow it to be done safely; adequate training was not given to the two men; there was no supervision, and they failed to take suitable precautions to prevent a fall.

“There should be no compromises on worker safety, and HSE will continue to take robust action against firms and individuals who fall so far below expected standards.”

HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12. Further information on safe working at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned; appropriately supervised; and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe,
  3. Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”

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