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Recent HSE Prosecutions in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is a key area for UK businesses in terms of critical infrastructure projects required across the country, but also for other businesses that rely heavily on supplying the construction sector. There have been several recent prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which have been as a result of organisations not properly protecting their employees and general public from health and safety risks.

We’re sharing the latest prosecutions to outline real examples where organisations have suffered as a result of not adhering to HSE legislation.

 

Doncaster Based Building Contractor fined £160,000

A building contractor was sentenced after a 12-year-old boy slipped off a scaffold ladder, falling approximately 10 metres.

What Happened?

Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 6 May 2017, two boys were able to climb the rungs of a ladder within scaffolding erected by a Doncaster based building contractor, by placing their feet either side of a ladder guard that did not cover the rungs of the ladder. One boy climbed to the top platform of the scaffold and climbed the uppermost ladder to a height of approximately 10 metres. The ladder slipped, causing the boy to lose his balance and fall to the ground, causing life-changing injuries requiring multiple operations. The boy now has no bladder or bowel control and is only able to walk short distances due to being unstable on his feet.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the security arrangements for preventing access to the scaffolding, especially by children from a nearby school, were inadequate.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £22,310 in costs.

Prevention

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Batt commented: “The death or injury of a child is particularly tragic and a lot of thought must go into securing construction sites. Children do not perceive danger as adults do. The potential for unauthorised access to construction sites must be carefully risk assessed and effective controls put in place.

“This incident could have been prevented by removal of the ladder completely or installing an appropriately sized ladder guard to cover the full width of the rungs.”

 

Stourbridge Based Roofing Contractor fined £41,125

Two contractors have been fined after a worker suffered fatal injuries following a fall through a fragile roof during construction work at a factory in Staffordshire.

What Happened?

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how on 19 September 2015, at the Norton Aluminium foundry site in Norton Canes, a scaffold company employee was fatally injured after falling approximately 11.5 metres through a fragile roof. The employee was working on the corrugated asbestos cement roof to move and fit temporary scaffold guardrails as part of a larger roof refurbishment project at the site.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the firm's owner failed to ensure the health and safety of his employees in relation to the work taking place on the fragile roof at the site. The investigation also found that the firm, who was a contractor in overall control of the roof refurbishment project, failed to ensure that people not in its employment were not exposed to risks arising from work on the fragile roof.

The owner pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years, 180 hours of unpaid community service and ordered to pay costs of £14,000.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £41,125 and ordered to pay costs of £33,000.

Prevention

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said:

“Falls through fragile roof materials remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities during construction work. These risks are well known, and the required control measures well documented in both HSE and industry guidance. This was a tragic and wholly avoidable accident that led to the death of a young man. This death could easily have been prevented if suitable safe systems of work had been in place.”

 

Hertfordshire Based Football Club fined £1,000

A football club has today been fined after the death of a volunteer who fell through a fragile roof.

Luton Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 18 July 2017, the 71-year-old volunteer suffered fatal injuries after he fell through fragile roof sheeting onto terrace steps below.

What Happened?

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the football club had failed to ensure a suitable system was in place to authorise certain work. It was also found that inadequate supervision, together with volunteers being provided with keys to gain uncontrolled entry to the football ground, resulted in access to the roof to carry out repairs in an unsafe manner.

The club pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £1000 and ordered to pay costs of £1000.

Prevention

After the hearing HSE inspector Sandra Dias said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable fatality caused by the failure of the club in its duty of care towards volunteers.

“Employers who use volunteers have to ensure their safety, the same as if they were a paid employee.”

 

Take Proper Safety Precautions in Construction

For most construction contractors, safety precautions are second-nature, and most works are completed without incident. As can be seen with these recent examples, it’s easy to miss or overlook an area of risk. These recent examples from HSE show how small actions could prevent serious injury and death.

Ladder Guards

If using ladder guards, ensure that you’re using an appropriately sized guard. If guards could be deemed unsuitable, consider removing ladders completely from the construction site.

Falls from Height

Falls through fragile roof materials are one of the most common causes of fatalities at work. Out of all people who are killed in falls from height, roofers account for 24%. There are several precautions workers and employers can take to mitigate the risk of injury. Consider whether working at height is necessary, there may be other options. Where working at height cannot be avoided, use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls. This equipment can include work-restraint systems, parapet walls and edge protection. Where risk of a fall cannot be eliminated, the HSE advise to minimise the distance of fall by use of nets, bean bags or fall-arrest harness systems.

For the complete HSE guidance for working on roofs, click here.

If you have any questions about your insurance coverage, liabilities or other risk. Please do feel free to get in touch with the friendly and specialist team at Inspire Insurance. Call today on 02476 998924.

 

 

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