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Lincolnshire firm fined for worker fall failings

Date:
12 December 2013

A Lincolnshire firm has been fined for safety failings after an employee seriously injured his back in a three-metre fall through a fragile roof at a Market Rasen farm.

The 30-year-old, from Scampton, who does not want to be named, fractured a vertebra and had to have metal plates inserted in his back as a result of the incident in Osgodby on 17 January this year.

His employer, Timmins Engineering and Construction Limited of Sturton-by-Stow, Lincoln, was prosecuted today (12 December) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified concerns with the system of work in place at the time.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard that the injured worker and a colleague were replacing fibre cement sheets on a storage building with steel sheets, using a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP), telehandler and crawler boards.

One was working inside the building from the MEWP, with the other on top of the roof using the crawler boards. Fixing bolts were cut from inside before the old sheets were slid out of the way to be removed by the telehandler, which was parked at the back of the building ready to take the load.

After an hour the worker inside the building joined the other on top of the roof to speed things up, but as he started to move the next roof sheet he slipped from the crawler board and stepped onto one of the cement sheets.

It wasn’t strong enough to take his weight and broke, sending him crashing to the ground below. He initially landed on his feet before falling over, with his back taking the impact.
HSE established that although both workers were working to a pre-planned method of work, it was inherently unsafe and failed to mitigate the risks of working with fragile materials.

The court was told that the roofing work was eventually completed a week later using scissor lifts inside the building, and that had this equipment been provided to start with then the incident could have been prevented.

Timmins Engineering and Construction of Tillbridge Lane, Sturton-by-Stow, was fined a total of £4,000 and ordered to pay £985 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Chris Copeman said:

“The worker sustained a serious injury that could have been avoided had a safer system of work been used for removing the fragile sheets.

“The risk of serious or even fatal injury is high and eminently foreseeable with this type of work, and it is vital that the correct equipment and methods are in place.

“The company eventually got it right by working from inside the building and avoiding the need to physically go onto the roof, but it is sad that it took a serious incident before this happened.”

Further information on working safely at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

Notes to Editors

  1. Regulation 4(1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is (a) properly planned.”
  2. Regulation 9(2)(b) states: “Where it is not reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without passing across or near, or working on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall a) ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar means of support or protection are provided and used so that any foreseeable loading is supported by such supports or borne by such protection.”

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