Stafford Borough Council has been fined after an incident at a theatre in which a worker suffered fractured bone in his back. Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard two Stafford Gatehouse Theatre employees were using a tallescope (a telescopic aluminium manually operated work platform, used for one-person spot access) to undertake high level work to stage curtains and projector.
One of the workers was in the caged working platform at the top of the tallescope, approximately 4.5 metres high, as his colleague manoeuvred it around the stage to relocate it when the apparatus overturned.
The HSE told the court the incident on 16 July 2014 should never have happened but they had found movement of the tallescope with someone in the cage took place on many occasions before this particular incident.
The court heard a suitable risk assessment had not been carried out for the use of the tallescope at the theatre. If it had, the manufacturer’s instructions on a warning label on the apparatus, stating it should not be rolled with men or materials on the platform, should have been highlighted.
Stafford Borough Council of Civic Centre, Stafford, admitted breaching Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation and Work at Height Regulations 2005, and were fined £20,000 with full costs of £1,922 and a victim surcharge of £120.
The man suffered a fracture to the right side of sacrum (the bone at the base of the spine connected to the pelvis) and was unable to bear weight on his right leg for four weeks, and couldn’t return to work for more than two months.
Clearly there were serious failures to consider the risks of working at height; if the Council had arranged a risk assessment then a more suitable means of undertaking the task could have surely been identified. This case shows the importance of taking the time to look at the task and think about the right way to undertake working at height.
The HSE reminder is that falls from height are the most common cause of fatalities at work. This incident could very easily have been a fatality. As it is, the man suffered serious injuries that are likely to have implications later in his life.
As the HSE inspector commented, this accident was entirely preventable. The tallescope should not have been moved with anyone in the cage; yet there was evidence this was common practice. We would urge other businesses to take a look at areas of common practice that could also have serious implications.