Broken Bones, Lost Teeth, Psychological Damage...
Grave injuries sustained, lives devastated and careers irreparably damaged. The last month’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutions make for extremely depressing reading. And the severity of each incident is matched by how easy it would have been to prevent, simply by using a ladder, MEWP or platform.
For example, in Bedford, a grain milling company was prosecuted as a consequence of a worker sitting astride a three-metre high pipe to carry out repairs. He lost his balance and fell onto concrete, sustaining broken ribs, cuts and bruises. This wouldn’t have happened had the company put the most basic measures in place and provided ladders or platforms for employees’ use.
Sadly, not all employees are lucky enough to sustain such “minor” injuries.
In Wales, a Cwmbran builder was fined 8,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £2,945.30 after an employee broke his left femur and had to be air-lifted to hospital following a 2.3-metre fall from the roof of a property near Llandegfedd Reservoir. His colleague Anthony Skarratts, 20, also fell from the roof, but escaped injury.
The duo, working for Paul Siviter General Builder, owned by Paul Siviter, were standing on an old wooden roof beam balanced less than three metres above the ground, in order to receive A-frame trusses from a telehander and assemble them into position. The beam broke in half, with both men falling to the ground below. Mr Hosking hit the edge of a disused bath tub below and it was this impact that caused his injury.
The HSE’s investigation found that although there was scaffolding in place around the exterior of the building, there were no measures in place to prevent workers falling from height within the building, such as birdcage scaffolding or mobile elevated work platforms. This is despite the fact that the investigation found that Paul Siviter's own site-specific risk assessment identified that the work activity would involve working at height above two metres and identified 'appropriate scaffolding' as a necessary precaution to take. Yet this precaution was not taken.
In the capital, 28 year old Wayne Bird was cleaning dead leaves from a building in Feltham when he stepped on a fragile skylight, which broke, sending him crashing through to the concrete floor below. He suffered fractures, severe tendon damage, broke his nose and lost several teeth. He is still being treated for the psychological effects of the incident.
The HSE found that the company had failed to plan the work properly and did not train its workers to work at height. There was no edge protection in place, and although there were running lines available on the roof, no harnesses had been attached to them to protect the workers.
Eddie Reast, IPAF Instructor at Facelift commented “Whether it’s a lack of education, an ‘it-wont-happen-to-us’ attitude or simply something akin to contempt for the lives and livelihoods of their employees, the complete lack of regard for health and safety in these businesses, and many others like them, is baffling.
“Incidents such as these simply should not be happening in this day and age, and we support the HSE in their dogged pursuit of those companies who seem to take such little interest in whether their employees make it home at the end of the day.”