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Worker's fall leads to court for two companies

Date:
3 June 2013

A linen hire service and a laundry company have both been fined for safety breaches after a worker fell from a ladder while trying to clear a blockage in an industrial-sized laundry machine.

A female employee of AAA Linen Services, who worked at their Park Royal headquarters in North West London, shattered her left ankle after she fell when the ladder slipped. She later needed 13 screws inserted in her foot to help repair the damage and has been unable to work since.

The incident, on 20 December 2010, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (3 June) prosecuted AAA Linen and the supplier of the machine, Laundryquip LLP, of Northamptonshire, for safety failings.

Westminster Magistrates were told that Laundryquip LLP had provided the reconditioned machine and installed it without suitable access steps that had been ordered by AAA Linen Services. In their place, AAA provided workers with a standard office chair to climb on when they needed to access the machine.

The worker, 41, a team leader at AAA Linen Services, had decided to use a ladder to reach and clear a machine blockage after having nearly fallen on a previous occasion while using the chair. The unsecured ladder slipped sending her falling to the factory floor.

Laundryquip LLP of Market Place, Brackley, Northants, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £16,500 in costs after being found guilty of a breach of Section 6(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

AAA Linen Services Ltd of Sunbeam Road, Park Royal, London NW10, which entered a guilty plea in August last year to a breach of Section 2(1) of the same Act between 29 October and 20 December 2010. The firm was also fined £5,000 with £4,500 to pay in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Nick Fry said:

"AAA Linen failed to ensure their employees’ safety when they needed to work at height to clear blockages on this large laundry machine. A chair was clearly the wrong choice of equipment and exposed workers to unnecessary risk. Their action led to an avoidable incident in which a woman was caused a great deal of pain and suffering.

"All work at height must be properly planned, organised and carried out by competent persons. Measures need to be put in place to avoid, prevent or reduce the risks of falls.

"Laundryquip LLP, as the supplier of the machine, had a duty to ensure that the machine was safe when put to use and, in this instance, they fell well below the acceptable standard of care.

"Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of injury."

The latest 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. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 6(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of any person who erects or installs any article for use at work in any premises where that article is to be used by persons at work or who erects or installs any article of fairground equipment to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that nothing about the way in which the article is erected or installed makes it unsafe or a risk to health."

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