Hedon Salads has been sentenced for safety breaches after a worker fell more than four metres through a greenhouse roof. The company had unbelievably instructed workers that they should walk heel to toe along the gutters and to use a long-handled brush to steady themselves against the glazing bars.
The 44-year-old man was cleaning and repainting greenhouse gutters at Hedon Salads Ltd in Burstwick when he lost his footing and fell through the glass roof. He broke his wrist and needed 20 staples across a head wound before being released from hospital after an overnight stay.
Hull Magistrates’ Court was told the man was one of a team of employees tasked with working on the gutters of 20 greenhouses at the firm’s 30-acre site. The greenhouses, which are used for cultivating tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, have an average size of 5,000 square metres.
It was found that no equipment was provided and no instruction given to the workers to protect them against a fall. The worker had cleaned some guttering and returned to the ground to collect his brush and paint. He climbed back up and had completed a short length of paintwork when his right foot went through the glass and he fell through the fragile roof.
The HSE served a Prohibition Notice on the firm preventing further work on the guttering until safety measures were in place. A prosecution was then taken against the business.
Hedon Salads Ltd which employs more than 100 people was fined £12,500 with £3,921 in costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Clearly the method of working employed was not properly risk assessed and the employee was extremely lucky not to have suffered more severe injuries, or even lost his life, in a fall of over four metres. We often wonder why is it that such obvious risks are missed or overlooked by businesses; short cuts all too often end badly.
Frustratingly, the accident could have easily been prevented by providing the proper equipment, such as a lightweight walking frame. As the HSE have commented, this case highlights how important it is for employers to identify the risks involved in working at height, particularly near fragile materials, and taking the necessary steps to reduce those risks and prevent falls.
It is fact that falls are the second highest cause of fatal incidents in agriculture and falls through fragile material account for half of these deaths. We work with a site that has a number of greenhouses and aware that working on them is sometimes difficult; however properly thought out safe working methods really do stop accidents and injuries occurring.