11 Nov 2011

Chicken company fined after worker fractures back in fall from ladder

A Norfolk chicken processing firm has been fined after one of its employees fell from a ladder and broke his back.

Factory worker Peter Sherwood, 61, from Corton near Lowestoft, was carrying cladding boards up an unsecured ladder at Crown Chicken Ltd's factory in Weybread, Diss, when it slipped from under him and he fell about 2.5 metres to the concrete floor. He suffered broken vertebrae in his lower spine which meant he had to wear a back brace and was off work for six months. He has since returned to work but is only able to carry out light duties.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that on 24 July 2010 a supervisor at the Crown Chicken factory had allowed Mr Sherwood to help another employee in carrying out a maintenance task, but the work was not adequately planned and the company had not provided information to its staff on how to use ladders safely.

Crown Chicken Ltd admitted breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court today and was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Saffron Turnell said:

"Mr Sherwood was taken from his usual duties and asked to carry out a task for which he was neither properly trained nor supervised. As a result he suffered a serious and extremely painful injury which caused him to be off work for months.

"More workers are injured by falling from a ladder than any other access equipment. Crown Chicken should have been aware of this and ensured that adequate systems were in place so that its employees were not put at risk.

"HSE will not hesitate to take employers to court and seek tough penalties if they are found to be taking a lax attitude to their workers' safety."

 HSE Bulletin No: HSE-e-45-11 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

The Good to Go Safety range includes a simple and efficient checklist system, designed to enable a quick and easy pre-use inspection of the ladder to be used. Once completed the checklist is inserted into a tag to clearly display to all potential users when the ladder is 'Good to Go' or if a fault is found a 'Do not Use' message is clearly displayed. A duplicate copy of all completed checklists is also retained in the check book for management records. The system is simple but effective and has proved extremely popular since its launch. You can find more information at www.goodtogosafety.co.uk or there are a number of guides aimed at improving ladder safety available on the HSE website (click on the links below):

    Safe use of ladders and stepladders - an employer's guide
    A toolbox talk on leaning ladder and stepladder safety:
    Top tips for ladder and stepladder safety:

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