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Council sentenced after theatre injury

Date:
24 June 2015

Stafford Borough Council was today fined after an incident at a theatre in which a worker suffered fractured bone in his back.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard two Stafford Gatehouse Theatre employees were using a tallescope (a telescopic aluminium manually operated work platform, used for one-person spot access) to undertake high level work to stage curtains and projector.

One of the workers, Mark Elkin, 33, was in the caged working platform at the top of the tallescope, approximately 4.5 metres high, as his colleague manoeuvred it around the stage to relocate it when the apparatus overturned.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told the court the incident on 16 July 2014 should never have happened but they had found movement of the tallescope with someone in the cage took place on many occasions before this particular incident.

The court heard a suitable risk assessment had not been carried out for the use of the tallescope at the theatre. If it had, the manufacturer’s instructions on a warning label on the apparatus stating it should not be rolled with men or materials on platform should have been highlighted.

Stafford Borough Council of Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford, admitted breaching Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 3(1)(a) and Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 6(3), and were fined £20,000 with full costs of £1,922 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Mr Elkin suffered a fracture to the right side of sacrum (the bone at the base of the spine connected to the pelvis) and was unable to bear weight on his right leg for four weeks and couldn’t return to work for more than two months.

After the hearing HSE inspector Katherine Blunt said: “This accident was entirely preventable. The tallescope should not have been moved with anyone in the cage.

“This could very easily have been a fatality. As it is, Mr Elkin suffered serious injuries.

“Falls from height are the most common cause of fatalities at work. It is imperative that significant risks are identified and suitable control measures to be put in place to eliminate or reduce such risks.”

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 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  3. Section 6 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
  4. Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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