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Non-Specific Risk Assessment Leads To Wrong Equipment And Fall From Height

17th December 2013
Carrying out a risk assessment before any task proceeds in the workplace is not only crucial but is also constantly emphasised by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Especially where ‘working from height’ is to be undertaken.

According to the HSE, between 2008 and 2009, there were more than 4,650 major injuries and over 7,000 further injury categories, which occurred as a result of a fall from height. Between 2011 and 2012, falling from height was, alongside slips, trips and falls, one of the key fatal injuries affecting two thirds of all workers (RIDDOR).

Many cases are heard in court where it is shown that a failure to undertake a risk assessment had led directly to a serious or fatal accident taking place and injury claims solicitors are able to point to consistent high numbers of compensation claims, which arise as a result of employers negligence.

Even when a risk assessment has taken place, there is no guarantee that it has been properly implemented and the correct procedures and equipment have been put into place to ensure the safety of the workforce involved in the task.

It was a poor risk assessment and subsequent use of incorrect and faulty equipment that led to a dramatic fall from height and causing life-threatening injuries to a 25 year old employee at an East London engineering firm in November 2011.

At the Magistrates’ Court hearing in April 2013, it was revealed that as a large vessel weighing 1.3 tonnes was being moved into a hotel’s lower ground plant room using chain blocks and hoists by 5 contractors, the victim, who was standing on the edge of a raised ledge to provide support, lost his balance and fell from the upper level. At the same time the vessel became detached from the load hook, which fell on top of the fallen worker fracturing 17 ribs and puncturing both lungs.

According to the HSE investigation which followed, a risk assessment and method statement for the work to be carried out was shown to be inadequate and lacking in detail. It was found that not only had incorrect lifting equipment been specified, but also a defective chain block hoist with a missing safety catch was used.

It was further revealed that the assessment itself was not site-specific, and consequently, there had been a failure to identify and be aware of the “actual risks associated with moving equipment down into the plant room.”

Pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the engineering firm from Gravesend was fined a total of £26,860 including costs.