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Firm fined after worker is injured in lift shaft fall

Date:
23 January 2014

A construction company has been fined after a lift engineer was severely injured when he fell down a lift shaft at a hospital construction site in Cambridge.

Terry Moore, 51, from Wisbech, suffered fractures to his left foot, shoulder, lower spine and pelvis, and was unable to work for several months as a result of the incident at Rosie Maternity Hospital – part of Addenbrooke’s – on 29 March 2012.

Belfast-based Farrans (Construction) Ltd was prosecuted today (23 January) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found that guard-rails placed across the entrance to the lift shaft did not meet the statutory height requirement.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Moore, an experienced lift engineer, was working on the uppermost floor of a new three-storey annex under construction, and was preparing the lift shaft ahead of a lift installation.

He was about to bring up further equipment from a floor below when he fell into the lift shaft and plunged some nine metres. He was discovered at the bottom of the shaft by a sub-contractor working nearby.

HSE’s investigation found that that the guard-rails placed across the entrance to the upper floor shaft were 908mm high and did not meet a long-standing regulatory requirement. The regulations state that the top guard rail should be at least 950mm above the edge from which a person is liable to fall.

The Court was told that although it could not be proven that the height discrepancy was a causative factor in the fall, it was a serious safety failing.

Farrans (Construction) Ltd, of Kingsway, Dunmurry, Belfast, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,225 costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector John Berezansky, said:

“Farrans (Construction) failed to implement a well-known industry standard regarding the height of the barriers across the lift shaft entrance.

“This standard has been in place for a considerable number of years, and it clearly states that the top guard rail must be at least 950mm above the edge from which any person is liable to fall. That is an absolute requirement and the onus is on employers to ensure this standard is met at all times.

“Construction work is a high-risk activity where falls account for a large proportion of all deaths and serious injuries. The end result here is that Mr Moore, an experienced engineer, sustained horrific injuries and could easily have been killed.”

More information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at http://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 8(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that, in the case of— (a) a guard-rail, toe-board, barrier or similar collective means of protection, Schedule 2 is complied with.”
  3. Schedule 2 states: “1.  Unless the context otherwise requires, any reference in this Schedule to means of protection is to a guard-rail, toe-board, barrier or similar collective means of protection. 2.  Means of protection shall— (a) be of sufficient dimensions, of sufficient strength and rigidity for the purposes for which they are being used, and otherwise suitable; . (b) be so placed, secured and used as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they do not become accidentally displaced; and . (c) be so placed as to prevent, so far as is practicable, the fall of any person, or of any material or object, from any place of work. . 3.  In relation to work at height involved in construction work— (a) the top guard-rail or other similar means of protection shall be at least 950 millimetres or, in the case of such means of protection already fixed at the coming into force of these Regulations, at least 910 millimetres above the edge from which any person is liable to fall; . (b) toe-boards shall be suitable and sufficient to prevent the fall of any person, or any material or object, from any place of work; and . (c) any intermediate guard-rail or similar means of protection shall be positioned so that any gap between it and other means of protection does not exceed 470 millimetres. . 4.  Any structure or part of a structure which supports means of protection or to which means of protection are attached shall be of sufficient strength and suitable for the purpose of such support or attachment. 5.  (1)  Subject to sub-paragraph (2), there shall not be a lateral opening in means of protection save at a point of access to a ladder or stairway where an opening is necessary.  (2) Means of protection shall be removed only for the time and to the extent necessary to gain access or egress or for the performance of a particular task and shall be replaced as soon as practicable.  (3) The task shall not be performed while means of protection are removed unless effective compensatory safety measures are in place.”
  4. Further HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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