A construction firm has been handed a fine of £6,000 following a work accident in which an employee fell and sustained serious injuries.
The 52-year-old was working as a sub-contractor for Ereconomic Construction on the creation of a cinema at New Square in West Bromwich for Odeon Cinemas last year.
On May 31st, work to install balustrades on a staircase in the building's lobby was delayed. As a result, the temporary edge protection lining the staircase on level one had not been removed when a floor system was being put in place.
It was therefore taken away so work on the floor could proceed. However, this meant there was no longer anything in place that could stop anyone climbing the stairs from falling over the side.
Therefore, when an employee later went up the stairs to pick up some tools, he ended up falling from a height of one metre. The man, who has chosen to remain anonymous, suffered a broken collarbone and was unable to work for three months.
Work Accident Investigation
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) subsequently carried out a work accident investigation into the causes of the accident and concluded that Ereconomics Construction had not taken sufficient steps to ensure falls could be prevented or mitigated.
In a hearing at Sandwell Magistrates' Court, the company admitted to breaching regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
This states that employers must take "suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury" if they are carrying out work above ground level.
Ereconomics Construction was ordered to pay a fine of £6,000, plus more than £1,000 in costs.
Accident was Avoidable
The HSE later criticised Ereconomics Construction for its lax attitude to health and safety, arguing that the fall could have been avoided if the edge protection had been left in place, or if alternative safety measures were implemented.
Amy Kalay, an inspector at the watchdog, commented, "Falls are the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and it is imperative that all work at height activity is subject to a high degree of management and control."
She added that Ereconomic Construction failed in its duty of care to the sub-contractor, who "sustained a serious injury in a wholly preventable incident".
Falls 'the biggest cause of workplace deaths'
According to statistics from the HSE, the majority of employee deaths that occur in the UK are a result of fall accidents at work. This is a particular problem in the construction industry, with figures showing that in 2007-08, falls from height accounted for 34 of the 72 worker deaths in the sector during that year.
Guidance from the HSE states that companies must avoid working at height as much as it is reasonably practicable to do so, or use the right type of equipment to provide adequate protection if this is not an option.
The regulator insists that this equipment must be fit for purpose, with regular maintenance and checks being carried out to see if it is safe, stable and strong enough for the job.
By Francesca Witney