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More Workers Suffer Fatal Accidents at Work

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently reported on two new cases where employers were prosecuted after their health and safety failures led to fatalities in the workplace.

Failure to Assess Risk

The first such case concerned a manufacturing company in Somerset, which appeared in court on health and safety charges after one of its workers died as a result of a fall from height.

The 46-year-old was employed as a maintenance worker, who regularly worked on the roofs without adequate and sufficient safety measures being in place. On this occasion, he fell through a skylight onto the concrete floor seven metres below and died a short time later.

The HSE investigation found that the roofs at the company were extensive and people worked on them regularly, without proper precautions to prevent them falling. Managers apparently failed to appreciate the risks to their maintenance workers when working on the roofs. They had carried out an inadequate generic risk assessment, which failed to identify the risks and control measures necessary when its employees were working at height.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £210,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,493.52.

Falls from Height

“The senior management of companies must learn from this tragic case that they need to take the health and safety of their workers seriously,” commented HSE Inspector Annette Walker. “In this case a confusing system of work had developed and unintentionally encouraged dangerous methods.”

“Falls from height continue to account for a significant proportion of all workplace deaths and serious injuries,” she added. “Falls through fragile roofs and skylights sadly happen all too often. Businesses should ensure that all roof work including routine maintenance is properly planned and carried out safely.”

In a second tragic incident, a worker lost his life after being crushed by falling machinery.

The 48-year-old worked for a manufacturing company in Hemel Hempstead. He was involved in moving a large milling machine within the company’s factory when it overturned and killed him.

Insufficient Training and Planning

The HSE revealed that the company had not ensured that workers who were tasked with lifting and moving the machine were sufficiently trained and had the right experience for carrying out such a potentially dangerous activity.

It also found that the work had not been properly planned. The centre of gravity of the machine had not been properly assessed and taken into account before the move took place. This resulted in an unsafe system of work being used for the job, with fatal consequences.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Reg 3(1) of Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety of Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £1million, with full costs £6,311 and a victim surcharge of £120.

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