Engineering firm in court over worker’s fall

A top engineering company has been fined for safety failings after one of their workers fell from scaffolding and suffered serious injuries.

The magistrates court heard that  the company who designs and builds storage tanks, heat exchangers and gasholders had been contracted to build a gasholder at the site.

One of the employees was working on the project as a welder when the incident happened on 9th November 2013.

The employee was tasked with welding seams of the tank which involved working at height from some staging which had been set up around the tank. However one of the employees colleague’s was also welding seams and had removed planks from the staging as was accepted practice to be able to facilitate his own welding.

As the worker walked around his colleague to get to the next seam, he fell through the staging platform and land4ed on his back at the bottom of the tank which was more than two metres below.

He fractured two ribs, suffered a bruised lung and a strained torso and spent four days in hospital. He was on crutches for around nine weeks and still suffers from backache and flashbacks. He has been unable to work as a welder.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the firm did not have suitable plans in place for working at height and did not supervise the work properly.

The company had been working to procedures that were nearly 20 years old and had not been updated despite significant changes to safety regulations and improved guidance relating to work at height.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector said: “This incident was entirely foreseeable and could have been prevented. If the company had planned the task properly and identified the risks, they would have been able to implement safe procedures for working at height and the workers painful injuries could have been avoided.

“In fact, it became apparent that the company’s procedures were totally out of date and fell well below the standards expected in industry today. Whenever work at height is planned, companies should undertake suitable assessments of the risks specific to the site and work to be undertaken.

“The worker not only physically suffered due to the companies failure to protect its employees, but he has also since suffered financially and emotionally.”

Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned;  appropriately supervised; and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.”

Source: HSE