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Firm fined after worker seriously injured in four metre fall

Date:
20 June 2014

A 23-year-old worker was left seriously injured after falling more than four metres from a ladder while installing audio visual equipment at a North Yorkshire school, a court has heard.

Lee Rutherford, from Durham, suffered fractures to his lower right leg and upper right arm, and a shattered elbow as a result of the fall at Filey Junior School on 21 June 2013. He required reconstructive surgery and also developed serious side-effects in his left shoulder as a result of his treatment. .

His employer, Peterborough-based Hedley Solutions Ltd, was prosecuted today (20 June) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified safety failings.

Scarborough Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Rutherford was installing audio visual equipment at the school with a colleague, and was using a set of combination ladders to enable him to work at height.

The ladders were being used as an extension ladder, positioned against an internal wall of the school hall, so that he could feed an IT cable through to a loft area. for his colleague.

While working at the top of the ladder, it slipped and he fell around four and a half metres to the floor.

HSE found that the ladders had not been secured and there was no effective anti-slip device or any other measure in use to provide stability.

It was also found that the work had not been properly assessed or planned by Hedley Solutions Ltd. If a proper assessment had been carried out, the risks would have been identified and more suitable access equipment, such as a tower scaffold or mobile elevated working platform, could have been used.

Hedley Solutions Ltd, of Millenium House, Dukesmead Werrington, Peterborough, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,296 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, Lee Rutherford said:

“I still get a lot of pain in my arm, there’s a lot of scarring from where I had to have surgery and skin grafts to rebuild my arm and I don’t have the same amount of movement as I used to.

“I have managed to go back to work, though I’m no longer with Hedley, but things are not the same as they were.

“No-one will ever understand how a fall from a ladder will affect the rest of their life. The constant pain and lack of movement I now have has affected me in so many ways. You need to stop and think before using an extension ladder – always think of yourself first.”

HSE Inspector Victoria Wise added:

“The height of the ceiling in the hall at Filey Junior School was around five metres and the consequences of a fall from this height onto a wooden floor could have been fatal. As it was this young man suffered serious injuries from which he is still recovering.

“The real tragedy is that it could so easily have been avoided if Hedley Solutions Ltd had properly assessed and planned the work in advance. An assessment of the risks would have shown that due to the length of the task, the distance and consequences of a potential fall, and the work required, ladders were not appropriate and an alternative means of access could have been provided.

“Falling from height remains one of the biggest causes of death and major injury in the workplace. It is crucial that employers properly assess and plan any task that involves working from height and use the most appropriate work equipment which prevents a fall occurring. There is a wide selection of work equipment available that is designed specially for work at height and there is no excuse for putting workers at unnecessary risk of serious injury, or even death.”

Free guidance and information on safe working at height is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height/index.htm

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. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk.

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