26 Nov 2012

Pub chain fined after fall from ladder killed cleaner

A pub chain has been fined £235,000 for health and safety failings which contributed to the death of a cleaner.

Richard Pratley, 65, died from a fractured skull after falling from a ladder as he tried to clean the roof of the "boathouse" inside the Snuff Mill Harvester on Frenchay Park Road.

Bristol Crown Court heard the restaurant's only stepladder was "unfit for service" – too short for the job, damaged, dirty, greasy and rusty.

The manager at the time, Petula Palmer, had asked the popular grandfather to do the job and despite raising concerns to her, he went in early on January 19, 2009, to do it.

As he couldn't reach the top of the roof – about 14ft up – he attached his brush to a mop handle. CCTV showed he stood with one foot on the top rung of the ladder shortly before losing his balance, falling and hitting his head.

Led by health and safety inspector Heather Clarke, the city council began an investigation. Not only were failings found to do with working at height, but other serious issues emerged. An unlocked electrical cupboard was found to have 83 defects, including live exposed wires.

Ms Clarke also found slip hazards in the kitchen when wet, and trip hazards in the outside yard.

Prosecutor Alan Fuller said the Harvester's risk assessments were "inadequate", neither Mr Pratley nor Ms Palmer – who later resigned – had been trained on ladder use and audits had not picked up the hazards in question. There were six slipping accidents between 2007 and 2009.

Mitchells and Butler, which owns 1,600 pubs and restaurants, admitted three health and safety breaches.

Judge Michael Roach said Mr Pratley's fatal fall was "foreseeable" and that his employers had "failed" him. He ordered they pay £65,000 costs.

Mr Pratley had three daughters – Lisa, Sonia and Dawn – and would have been a grandfather of seven.

Lisa, 36, said: "We're pleased that Mitchells and Butlers have been convicted but it still doesn't bring back our dad. We still feel the pain and suffering it has caused – of losing a loved one – especially in such a tragic and unnecessary way. But at least now, hopefully, this will not happen to anyone else in the workplace."

Mr Pratley's partner of 18 years, Janice Scott, 49, said: "Richard loved his work. He didn't want to retire at 65 – the November before he said he wanted to work for one more year.

"I was very angry about him doing that job because he was worried about it. We're glad it's all over now and justice has finally been done."

An M&B spokeswoman said: "This was a tragic accident and we would like to reiterate our condolences to Mr Pratley's family. The safety of our employees and guests remains paramount and following a detailed review of the circumstances of the accident, the company has implemented a comprehensive programme of remedial measures at the premises and across the entire estate."

Source: The Bristol Post

Having read this report in the Bristol Post, the events that led to this death are more than worrying. Even without any training in health & safety, or equipment management, it seems blatantly obvious to anyone that this was an unsafe method of work. The fact that an employee raised his concerns should be enough to raise alarm bells and if someone had taken a look at the ladder and the height that it was intended to reach, then it would soon become obvious that the ladder was unsuitable for the job in hand.

The Good to Go Safety system allows a tag to be attached to each ladder within an organisation. The tag clearly displays a "Do Not Use" message until an inspection of the ladder has been carried out. A checklist gives guidance notes on what the user should be aware of (including oil/grease on treads etc) and the checklist allows them to systematically check components such as rungs, stiles , feet etc. Once the inspection has been completed, the checklist is placed inside the tag and if all was correct than a "Good to Go" message is visible to advise that the ladder has been checked on that date and found to be safe for use. A duplicate copy of the completed checklist is also retained for management records.

It really is a simple but effective tool for both management and employee to implement and use. And it is incidents like the one mentioned above that highlights the importance of having safety systems in place, especially when you consider the low cost, low inconvenience to put these systems in place.
Hopefully employers will read this article and take note. Hopefully, one or two will invest their time to look into their current methods of work and who knows,maybe between us we can save one or two lives in the process.

15 Nov 2012

Ribble Valley firm prosecuted for unsafe scaffolding

The lives of several construction workers were put at risk as they worked on unsafe scaffolding at a farm in the Ribble Valley, a court has heard.
Workers on unsafe scaffolding at a farm in the Ribble Valley
The men were spotted working on a barn conversion in Mellor Brow in Mellor on 13 March 2012 during a series of on-the-spot inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) targeting refurbishment and roof work.

The inspector immediately served a Prohibition Notice ordering the men to come down from the scaffolding and their employer, Bailey Developments (NW) Ltd, was prosecuted today (14 November 2012) for failing to take sufficient measures to prevent workers being injured in a fall.

Accington Magistrates’ Court was told the company had been served with a Prohibition Notice in 2009 for previous unsafe work at height at a construction site in Preston.

During the site visit to the farm in Mellor, workers were seen on scaffolding platforms more than five metres above the ground, but there were numerous missing guard rails, deck boards and toe boards to prevent them falling. The scaffolding was also potentially unstable and there were unsafe ladders leaning against it.

Bailey Developments (NW) Ltd, of Deanfield Drive, Clitheroe, was fined £5,000 after admitting breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was also ordered to pay £2,000 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Polec said:

"Bailey Developments risked the lives of its employees by failing to ensure the scaffolding they were working on was safe. It was only luck that no one was injured in a fall.

"Work at height is one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths in the UK, with dozens of fatal injuries every year. It’s therefore vital that construction companies do all they can to protect their workers."

The latest figures show that 38 people died as a result of a fall in a workplace in Great Britain in 2010/11, and more than 4,000 suffered a major injury. Information on preventing falls is available at www.hse.gov.uk/falls.

HSE Bulletin No: HSEWeb   (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)
Tag displays "Do Not Use" message
It sounds as if there was a real catalogue of errors/dangers on this particular project, with a blatant disregard to employee (and apparently public) safety. The list of issues relating to the scaffold alone are enough to make your jaw drop, before taking into consideration that dangerous ladders were also being used. Yet again, this highlights the importance of having competent workers that have been trained in the safe practices required when working with scaffolding. The use of a tag and checklist system such as Good to Go Safetys' would help identify any problems and advise other (less knowledgeable) workers that the scaffold was not to be used, by inserting the completed checklist with a "Do Not Use" message clearly shown (see image to the left).

Unfortunately, as with most cases like this, health and safety must start at the top in order for it to be taken seriously and the onus is on the owner/managers to instill a positive health & safety culture. If they are willing to cut corners, employee untrained workers and put the safety of others at risk just to save a few shillings then there will always be cases like this being identified. It highlights the need to come down hard on cowboy companies, who are willing to undercut legitimate companies with high standards, to win contracts in tough economic times.

For more information about our scaffold tags and checklist systems visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk
1 Nov 2012

Construction - Latest H&S statistics for 2011/12

The HSE has released the latest Health and Safety Statistics for 2011/12 relating to the Construction industry. The document can be found at: www.hse.gov.uk
Twenty year trend in worker fatalities

There have been significant reductions in the number and rate of injury over the last 20 years or more. Nevertheless, construction remains a high risk industry. Although it accounts for only about 5% of the employees in Britain it still accounts for 22% of fatal injuries to employees and 10% of reported major injuries.

The latest results in construction show:
  • 49 fatal injuries to workers. 23 of these fatalities were to the self-employed. This compares with an average of 59 over the previous five years – including an average of 19 to the self-employed (RIDDOR);
  • Over 5,000 occupational cancer cases are estimated to arise each year as a result of past exposures in the construction sector (Research report 931 “The burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain”);
  • There were an estimated 74,000 total cases and 31,000 new cases of work-related ill health (LFS);
  • An estimated 1.7 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and a further 0.6 million due to workplace injuries. This equates to 0.87 and 0.34 days per worker. (LFS)
  • The figures also highlight that "Falls" remain the major contributor to worker fatalities (repsonsible for over half of them).

The Chief Inspector of Construction at HSE, Philip White, said:

"Year after year, construction continues to be one of the most dangerous sectors in British industry. Though the numbers are down in the long term, thousands of workers are being seriously injured or made unwell by their work.

"We all need to refocus our efforts and take on the responsibility to ensure the serious risks that continue to cause death and serious injury, are sensibly managed. Many of these incidents are entirely preventable.

"The Olympics showed us that construction can be an example to all other industries when it is properly focused on managing risk and simple steps are put in place to ensure workers' health and safety."

The construction industry sector recorded 2230 major injuries in 2011/12 down from 2307 in 2010/11 and 5391 over-3-day injuries, up from 4813 in 2010/11 to 5391 in 2011/12 (though this is in part due to reclassification of figures), though this figure is still some way down on the five year average. All non fatal injuries saw a seven percent increase from 7120 in 2010/11 to 7621 for 2011/12.

The latest statistics indicate there is still room for improvement in H&S matters within the industry. The need to keep driving fatality and injury rates down remain a priority and, as ever, we hope that our Good to Go Safety systems can go some way to help meet those objectives. 

By ensuring employees carry out pre-use checks of equipment (whether it be scaffolding, ladders, harness or MEWPs) we strive to reduce the risk of equipment failure and potential injury or fatality. The time and cost to carry out routine inspections using Good to Go Safety systems is exceptionally low. Compare it to the cost of an injury or an enforcement notice (figures relating to these are also included in the report) and logic should demand that you invest in the system and, as a result, your employees safety. 

For more information relating to the Good to Go Safety inspection systems visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk
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