A seasonal illuminations company in Chesham has been fined for safety failings after an employee broke his arm and lost several teeth when he fell from a ladder. The worker had been fixing bunting outside a supermarket to celebrate the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when the incident occurred at Chesham High Street on 11 April 2011.
He and a colleague from Lamps and Tubes Illuminations Ltd were using a ladder for the job when he slipped, falling five metres to the ground below. The man suffered five broken bones in his wrist, a lost tooth and a trapped nerve in his leg.
The court heard that the day before the accident that a Lamps and Tubes Illuminations Ltd director had attended the site and advised the men to use the ladder – even though two other employees working nearby were using a cherry picker.
Unfortunately it was a poor decision and one where a risk assessment should have been carried out. Clearly the use of a ladder was unnecessary when a safer, more suitable way of working was available – and it went against the companies own written procedures. Why is it that such decisions to overlook potential risks and ignore their own rules are made?
It’s probably down to saving time and therefore money and/or the fact the director didn`t understand the written procedures in the first place. They probably had them written by someone else and failed to take the time to understand and actually, as a business, own the procedures. We come across many companies that wave around the fact they have health & safety policies and procedures but too often fail to follow them.
For Lamps and Tubes Illuminations Ltd, this failure cost them a £5,950 fine and costs of £10,000 after admitting breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
As the HSE pointed out after the case, falls from height would have posed a frequent risk for Lamps and Illuminations Ltd employees due to the nature of the company’s work. The need for carrying out risk assessment, training employees and ensuring projects are well managed was so important.
Having in place a written set of procedures, which included not using ladders if another more suitable method of working at height was available, was a good starting point. But as this case demonstrates, procedures are not enough when they are overlooked by senior management.
I suggest that you need to ask whether this could this happen in your business, and if so, determine what you need to do differently.