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Employers' Failings Lead to Falls from Height

The Health and Safety Division of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service was recently involved in the prosecution of a cargo handling company after its health and safety failings led to a worker sustaining serious injuries.


Severe Head Injuries

The man in question had been working in the lower hold of a cargo vessel docked at Inverness Harbour unloading turbine components.
While attempting to attach lifting gear to a unit holding turbine fins, he lost his balance and fell a distance of between 12-15 feet. The injuries he suffered as a result included a fractured skull, a head wound which required 19 stiches, fractures to both eye sockets, a dislocated jaw, damage to his teeth, bruising to his arms and legs, a compression injury to his neck and shoulders and multiple fractures to his left wrist.
The company appeared in Inverness Sheriff Court, which heard that the firm had failed in its responsibilities to ensure that the work at height being undertaken that day by its employees was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was, so far as reasonably practicable, safe.
The company pleaded guilty to a single charge under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £60,000.

An Avoidable Incident

"This was an accident that resulted in serious injuries that could have been avoided if the appropriate planning and protective measures had been in place at the time,” explained Alistair Duncan, Head of the Health and Safety Division. “This incident could well have proved fatal and it has significantly changed Mr. Reid’s life.”
"Falls from height are one of the greatest single causes of death and serious injury to workers within the construction industry,” he added. “Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings."
In a separate case, this time brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a construction company appeared in Bristol Magistrates’ Court on health and safety charges after a worker sustained life changing injuries after falling from scaffolding.
He had to be placed in an induced coma for two weeks after falling more than six metres from the scaffolding, and suffered several serious injuries including losing the sight in his right eye and five fractures to the skull.

Employer Failings

When the HSE investigated the incident, it found that the employee was untrained, the supervisor was unfamiliar with the current expected safety techniques and the appropriate equipment had not been provided to the worker to conduct this work safely.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £26,000.
“We want all workers to go home healthy and safe,” commented hearing HSE inspector Ian Whittles. “Those in control of work have a responsibility to ensure safe methods of working are used and to inform, instruct and train their workers in their use.”
“If industry recognised safe systems of erecting scaffold had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented,” he added.

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