7 Oct 2010

Serious injury after fall from unguarded platform

A man was left with serious injuries after a fall from an unguarded platform, a court heard during the sentencing of a Huddersfield textile retailer.

Fifty-seven year-old Dennis Hunter, of Barnsley, was left with a broken leg and crushed ankle when he fell eight feet onto concrete while dismantling racking at Phoenox Textiles' site in Spring Grove Mills, Clayton West.

Huddersfield based Phoenox Textiles was prosecuted after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the men were working unsupervised and had received no training to dismantle the 30-feet-high shelving system safely.

The men had not been given any specialist equipment to enable them to work safely at height. Ladders supplied were not suitable for the work nor secured in any way.

Huddersfield magistrates heard Mr. Hunter was on a lower rack while cutting through boarding with a circular saw. The board tipped and sent him crashing to the floor, breaking his leg. The heavy board then fell on top of him crushing his left ankle and badly bruising his face. Mr Hunter underwent two operations and was in plaster for seven weeks before he was able to return to work part time.

Following the incident, HSE served an Improvement Notice ordering Phoenox to properly assess risks to staff while working at height and implement suitable controls. A Prohibition Notice was also served halting any further dismantling work on other poorly-maintained racking at the site.

Phoenox Textiles Ltd., which employs 45 staff across two sites, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of employees.  The firm was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,056 costs.

After the case, Inspector Jackie Ferguson said:

"Six workers were put at risk during the dismantling of this racking - they had absolutely no protection against falls from working at heights of up to 30 feet.  Mr Hunter was fortunate not to have suffered even worse injuries, and to date remains unable to fully bear weight on his injured leg.

"Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of injury. Working at height without the right equipment, training or systems is wholly unacceptable and extremely dangerous. HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when companies commit serious offences and put their workers' lives in danger."

In Yorkshire & Humber, two workers lost their lives from falls in 2008/9 and more than 1,000 were injured, nearly half of them seriously.

HSE Transcript Source: YH/237/10
(Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

It would appear that little thought was given to the task in hand for dismantling the shelving, the thought that ladders would provide a suitable work platform seems ludicrous, and a risk assessment would have surely identified the need for a scaffold tower or MEWP to carry out the work safely. Good to Go Safety offers inspection systems for racking, ladders, scaffold towers and MEWPs (amongst others), click here to find out more information on how Good to Go Safety can improve safety in your workplace.

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