28 Feb 2012

Fall from height leads to fines

Two Nottingham companies have been fined after a worker fell more than nine metres, injuring his back.

The 38-year-old employee of M-tech Engineering Limited fell from a mobile tower scaffold being used to install a steel staircase at a building in Convent Street, Nottingham, on 15 April 2009.

He fractured two vertebrae and was off work for almost seven months.

The building was undergoing extensive refurbishment. Thomas Long & Sons Limited were the principal contractor and M-tech Engineering Limited had been contracted to install the staircase.

The system of work was developed by M-tech Engineering.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the scaffold tower had not been erected to the manufacturer's instructions or industry guidelines, the tower was supported on a platform that was not sufficiently rigid to provide a suitable base and the working platform was not fitted with adequate guardrails to prevent falls.

HSE inspector Kevin Wilson said:

"Work at height should be properly planned and a safe system of work developed with access equipment provided that is suitable for the task.

"The system of work in use at the time of the incident put operatives at risk of falls into the stairwell from the landings, the part installed staircase and from the mobile scaffold tower and supporting platform which did not provide a safe working platform.

"As a result a man suffered serious injuries. It was only chance that his injuries were not more severe as he fortuitously landed on a surface that absorbed the energy of his fall.

"Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and it's crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures are put in place to protect staff from the risks."

M-tech Engineering Limited, of Third Avenue, Greasley, Bulwell, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. Today, Nottingham magistrates fined the company £8,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £4,000.

Thomas Long & Sons Limited, of Mile End Road, Colwick, Nottingham pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for failing to plan, manage and monitor construction in a way that ensured it was carried out without risks to health and safety. Magistrates fined the company £6,000 with costs of £3,000.

HSE Bulletin No: HSE/EM/311 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

It always astounds me how often I read about companies and employees taking shortcuts when constructing scaffold towers. They come with fairly detailed instructions that even the untrained should be able to follow. As ever, this type of equipment should be used/installed by a competent person and pre-use checks carried out to ensure that everything is in place and fit for purpose. The use of a Good to Go Safety checklist would enable a comprehensive check to be carried out and identify any missing components. This simple management tool is invaluable when it comes to preventing foreseeable accidents such as this. To find out more about our scaffold tower inspection system click here or visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk to see our full range of inspection systems.


  1. The key line is "taking short cuts". The problem is, and always will be, that as long as the worker is pushed by production time lines they are going to take short cuts. Until safety is viewed as part of the production time line, and it's "make work" figured in, we are going to continue to see workers "making time" by cutting corners. Pre production JSA's and deliniated work proceedures are all cut out in the name of production. With competive bids as tight as they are, the first things to go is safety. It's not just the worker taking the short cut.

  2. I agree. Certainly in the scaffold business, the 'good guys' are often priced out of jobs by the more unscrupulous outfits who are willing to throw up scaffolding without care or consideration to the employees or members of the public. Certainly, when it comes to 'private' jobs where the public have little/no idea of the do's and don'ts of the job, cowboy oufits can get away with murder (or should that be corporate manslaughter). Unfortunately these short cuts are, as you say, all the more prevalent due to the state of the economy and the ensuing tightening of belts across the country.

  3. Fall protection techniques should be used by the employee who are working so that employee can secure our self.


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