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Builder pays price for unsafe work

Date:
19 September 2013

The owner of a Leeds building firm has appeared in court after two workers were injured, one seriously, when they fell from a mezzanine floor they were dismantling.

One worker, then 61 and from Seacroft, broke two vertebrae and was in hospital for five days following the incident on 15 July 2012. He has been unable to continue working in the construction industry because of impaired lifting and carrying abilities.

The second man, then 18 and from Halton, suffered concussion, but has since made a full recovery.

The mezzanine, in a Cross Green warehouse that was being vacated, was being purchased by George Simms, a partner in Simco Services, who brought in the two men to dismantle it.

Leeds Magistrates heard (18 Sept) that Mr Simms gave inadequate thought to planning the work, and existing handrails, intended to prevent falls from the mezzanine, were removed. As the work went on, it is thought one of the boards broke and the two men fell to the concrete floor below.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted George Simms for a breach of the Work at Height Regulations.

HSE told the court that Mr Simms had not considered how the work should be undertaken and this led to the two men working at height with no safeguards in place to prevent them falling. The men were repeatedly required to work close to the open edges, often while carrying materials and tools, making a fall more likely.

The investigation was unable to identify exactly how the two workers fell together but a probability was that a board broke, causing it to slip. However, HSE said it was the ad-hoc nature of the work which ultimately led to the serious risks faced by the men.

George Simms, of Ramshead Drive, Seacroft, Leeds, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,210 in costs after admitting a breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, Inspector Martin Hutton said:

"The two men who fell from height could easily have been killed. While one has been lucky enough to make a good recovery, the other suffered lasting spinal injuries which meant he had to give up work.

"As far as Mr Simms goes, his only method of work was an unsafe, poorly-planned one, presenting abundant risks to workers of falling off or through the mezzanine.

"Work at height is the single biggest cause of fatal incidents in the workplace and proper planning is vital to ensure it can be carried out safely. That includes choosing the most suitable equipment and making sure work is properly supervised."

For information and advice about safe working at height, visit 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."

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