A building firm has been sentenced after a bricklayer broke his back when he fell through exposed floor joists at a site in Widnes. The 40-year-old man was working on a project to refurbish a corner shop and construct four one-bedroom houses, when he fell three metres from the first to the ground floor.
The HSE prosecuted the principal contractor for the project, Frank Rogers (Building Contractor) Ltd, following an investigation into the incident. The court heard that there was no internal staircase in the building, so workers had to climb up a ladder or through a window opening from scaffolding, to access the first floor. The accident occurred when the man tripped as he stepped from the window onto a trestle on the floor, and fell between the exposed joists. He suffered a brief loss of consciousness and a broken back.
The company pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to make sure that sufficient measures were in place to prevent workers being injured in a fall. The company was fined £13,500 and ordered to pay £7,509 in prosecution costs on 13 June 2012.
Thankfully the man has made a good recovery, but a fall of that distance could have resulted in him suffering permanent injuries or even being killed. The HSE identified that the company didn’t consider the risks of workers being injured in a fall ahead of the work starting and, as a result, no measures were put in place to prevent falls.
The frustration is that if the company had taken simple safety measures, such as covering the joists with wooden boards, then this man would not have fallen to the ground below.
It’s a fact that simple accidents such as slips, trips and falls account for a large proportion of serious workplace injuries and in this case the lack of simple precautionary measures could have led to life changing results. Our experience is that unfortunately many employers fail to see the bigger picture and therefore fail to implement simple basic controls that would make a real difference to the safety of their site. Why not take time to look again at your workplace and consider if a simple accident such as a slip, trip or fall could end up in tragedy?