17 Dec 2010

Fall from ladder results in a worker's death and £300k fine for BT

BT has been fined £300,000 following the death of a worker who fell from a ladder while carrying out installation works.

Power construction engineer David Askew, 52, from Braintree, Essex, suffered fatal head injuries after falling from a wooden ladder at London's Canonbury Telephone Exchange on 27 October 2006.

British Telecommunications Plc (BT) was prosecuted after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Southwark Crown Court heard Mr Askew was installing distribution boards and running cabling as part of his work and would have been working at a height of more than four metres. He fell from a nine-step wooden ladder, sustaining a serious head injury and died 18 days later.

The HSE investigation found a number of issues including a failure to ensure the work at height was properly planned, and that Mr Askew was provided with suitable access equipment for work at height. Two wooden ladders found at the scene had not been subject to an annual inspection, contrary to BT's own health and safety policy.

BT, based in Newgate Street, London, were found guilty of breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at a previous hearing. Today, they were fined £300,000 and were ordered to pay costs of £196,150

Nicola Maisuria, HSE inspector, said:

"The fact that this incident was entirely avoidable makes Mr Askew's death all the more tragic.

"The dangers posed by work at height are well known, yet BT failed to create the conditions to ensure this task was carried out safely and the appropriate access equipment was used.

"Employers have a responsibility to ensure that work at height is properly planned and organised."

Speaking of her husband's death, Denise Askew said:

"I spent over 30 happy, irreplaceable years with my husband. He was a remarkable father and husband. What do I have to look forward to now? My husband was my past and I thought he was my future.

"I feel sad my husband will never see two of his children get married. Most of all I feel sad that I see such sadness in my children's eyes when they talk of their father.

"I feel sad that my husband worked all his life and never got the chance to retire and enjoy the life he was working so hard towards.

"I share a massive disappointment that this happened within a workforce of such a large company and where the safety of every employee should have been assured".

Falls from height remain the most common cause of workplace fatality. In 2008/09 there were 35 fatalities, 4654 major injuries and a further 7065 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for over three days or more, due to a fall from height.

HSE Transcript Source: COILDN/1512
(Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

The impact of an incident such as this is substantial, not just to the company but to the loved ones left behind. The fact is that accidents can happen for a large multi-national, just the same as it can for a small independent firm. Without the necessary checks and preparations, accidents will continue to occur and families will continue to suffer the consequences. Choosing the correct equipment for working at height is critical - more and more employers are using MEWPs rather than ladders to improve safety levels. Regardless of which equipment is used, there remains the need to carry out a check of the selected equipment to ensure it is fit for use. Good to Go Safety offer a range of effective tagging and inspection systems which can help to eliminate avoidable accidents such as that highlighted above - click here for more information.

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