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HSE investigates falls from height

Top view of slate roof
14th May 2014
Two falls from height cases brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have resulted in two companies being fined and could lead to at least one work compensation claim being made by the injured parties.

In Nottinghamshire, an unnamed man fell four metres to the ground after going through a fragile roof panel whilst dismantling a farm building at Manor Farm near Newark in May 2009. The fall from height caused him to break his pelvis, shoulder blade and four of his ribs, with HSE inspector David Butter saying that he "was extremely lucky to survive".

The man's employer, James Miller Ltd, admitted to breaking health and safety rules at Newark and Southwell magistrates' court and was fined £4,000, along with an order to pay costs of £2,114. The unnamed victim could add to his employer's financial penalty by pursuing a work compensation claim. After the trial, David Butter added that "the work on the roof should not have been carried out in the way it was, with just a ladder and some plywood boards. The fall could have been avoided had the work been properly planned and appropriate safety measures taken such as using scaffolding or a cherry-picker."

The week proved even more successful for HSE falls from height investigations when the safety body also secured a fine for a Cambridgeshire company after one of its employees suffered severe head injuries which ultimately led to blindness in one eye.

John Ingram was carrying out refurbishing work on an agricultural building in Newgate Street in Hertfordshire in March last year, when he fell from the tower scaffold he had been using to reach higher. John spent several days in a coma and was unable to work for eight months following the fall. He's only just returned to work on a part-time basis, so he may wish to make a work compensation claim to recompense him for any earnings he lost during the period.

John's employer Balsham admitted two breaches of health and safety legislation at Watford magistrates' court this week and was fined a total of £14,000, plus £8,832.30 in costs. After proceedings concluded, HSE inspector John Berezansky remarked that "a lax attitude to health and safety in one of the more dangerous industries is not acceptable, especially when so many incidents are completely avoidable by taking commonsense actions and precautions."

In 2009/2010, 22 people died after falls from height, whilst 10,477 people sustained injuries which kept them from working for three days or more.

Reported by Fiona Campbell