A building company based in the north-east of England has been fined after a worker was seriously injured in an industrial accident.
The 23-year-old woman from Gateshead, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working at a Bellway Homes site in Earsdon View, Shiremoor, when the accident took place on December 4th 2012.
According to reports from the scene, the Bellway employee was leaning on a handrail when it gave way underneath her.
The woman, who was an agency worker, broke her right wrist, fractured her forehead, jaw and cheekbone and sustained a hairline fracture to her right hip, as well as severed tendons in her left hand and extensive bruising across her neck, back and face after the fall.
After arriving at a nearby hospital, the injured woman had to have a metal plate inserted into her right arm and required further surgery to prevent complications from causing issues.
All of this meant the woman was unable to return to work for six months. She still suffers constant pain and it is unlikely she will ever be able to return to a job as a labourer, reducing her opportunities for employment.
After being informed of the work accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation to establish how the temporary handrail failed to provide enough support for the worker.
Inspectors found the structure was just a single piece of timber fixed to the protective cover of an upright post, without the proper support to be able to take any meaningful amount of weight.
North Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard that the woman had been clearing rubbish on the first floor of a property nearing completion when she began talking to a worker on the ground floor hallway.
But as she did this, the temporary handrail she leaned on gave way underneath her, causing her to fall 2.6 metres to the floor below.
For its part in failures to provide suitable measures to prevent a fall, Bellway Homes was taken to Court by the HSE and asked to explain why proper safeguards were not put in place.
Executives from Bellway Homes pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was also ordered to pay £904.70 in prosecution costs.
Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Emma Scott said, "This accident could easily have been prevented if Bellway Homes Limited had ensured that temporary guardrails were erected and installed correctly.
"Instead a young worker has been left with serious injuries which are still causing her pain and may well prevent her from continuing work in her chosen trade.
"The significant dangers of death and serious injury associated with falls from height during construction work are well known and long standing in the industry, and working on a landing area without suitable safety measures in place is simply not acceptable."
Work at Height
Work at height remains one of the greatest causes of industrial accidents in the UK, with hundreds of people a year injured because of poor planning and a lack of protection.
But in this case, something as simple as a protective barrier could have prevented this accident and avoided a great deal of pain and suffering for the worker involved.
By Francesca Witney