We have to ask the question, “why in the face of good advice, does an employer decide to take risks that lead to such a serious accident?” Is this a clear case of putting profit before safety, as measures to prevent this accident would not have been prohibitively expensive?
The accident occurred when the man fell through a fragile roof and plunged ten metres onto a concrete floor and developed post-traumatic epilepsy as a result of his injuries. He was never able to return to work and subsequently died from an epileptic seizure two years later.
His employer J Mills (Contractors) Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to put any safety measures in place to stop the 32-year-old man falling while he was replacing a skylight on a warehouse.
The courts heard how the man had sustained several serious injuries in the fall, including a fractured skull. They also heard that his line manager had received advice from HSE just one week before the incident which could have saved his life. An HSE inspector explained to him how to safely manage work on fragile roofs, but this advice was not acted upon.
The incident occurred whilst the man was on the roof with two of his colleagues. He placed his weight on the delicate cement surrounding the glass. The cement shattered, and he fell through the gap. The HSE investigation found J Mills had not carried out a risk assessment or put any safety measures in place to protect him.
J Mills (Contractors) Ltd admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. The company was fined £145,000 and ordered to pay £7,700 in prosecution costs in addition to the fine.
It seems crazy that had the company taken action on the HSE advice from one week before, this man would have not fallen. His family would not have been left without a father. You really have to question why his employer would allow such a high risk task to even take place after such advice.
The facts are that falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of serious injury. In 2009/10, more than 4,000 employees suffered a major injury as a result of a fall from height at work and 12 were killed.
So how do you stop this happening in your workplace?
We would recommend that any business needs to look closely at its high risk activities and take advice if they are not sure of what precautions should be implemented. Whatever happens, don`t put yourself or your company into a position where the HSE needs to step in.
In future, such a case as this would be prosecuted under Corporate Manslaughter Act, and the fines would be much much higher. For J Mills this accident occurred in 2007 before the Act came into force.