£1.1m fine after worker’s severe blood loss in ladder fall

A London-based refurbishment company has been fined after a worker was seriously injured when he fell from height from a ladder.

Luton Crown Court heard that on 5 September 2016 an engineer was testing a sprinkler system for leaks at a site in Hemel Hempstead. He climbed onto an internal roof and was inspecting the leak from an extension ladder. The ladder slipped away from him and he fell almost three metres into the gap between the internal roof and the external wall.

The worker suffered severe blood loss, amounting to around half of his bloodstream. He required a blood transfusion and needed 14 stiches to his head.  He also sustained a fractured vertebrae and suffered soft tissue damage.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that reasonably practicable measures had not been taken to prevent a fall from the internal roof for both the engineer and other contractors working on the roof. The investigation found that Modus Workspace Limited, the principal contractor, had failed to discharge its duty to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks, in particular that of falling from height.

Modus Workspace Limited of Greencoat Place, London was found guilty after a five-week trial of breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1.1 million and ordered to pay costs of £68,116.18.

HSE inspector John Berezansky, commented: “This case highlights the importance of taking reasonably practicable measures when planning and managing the risks regarding work at height within the construction industry.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities and injuries in this country and the risks and control measures associated with working at height are well known.

“The engineer’s injuries were life changing and he could have easily been killed. This serious incident and devastation could have been avoided if basic safety measures had been put in place.”

In response to this prosecution, the Ladder Association – the not-for-profit lead industry body dedicated to promoting the safe use of ladders and stepladders – is urging all those responsible for managing the use of ladders to take the necessary measures so, as far as is reasonably practicable, their employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

Gail Hounslea, chairman of the Ladder Association, the not-for-profit industry body dedicated to promoting the safe use of ladders and stepladders, said: “It is clear from this case that the company failed to put in place basic safety measures and in doing so, failed in its duty to ensure the safety of its employees and other contractors on site. Unfortunately, this avoidable accident had life-changing consequences for the victim. The level of fine imposed, in excess of £1m, is reflective of the seriousness of the incident and while we never wish to hear of these, we hope it does highlight the responsibilities placed on employers to keep their employees safe at work.

“The Ladder Association urges all companies who use ladders in the workplace to comply with their legal and moral duties to safeguard employees – by doing so, we know there is a far greater likelihood that accidents such as this can be avoided.”

Falls from height remain one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities and injuries – accounting for 40 fatalities in 2018/2019.

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