Company fined for unsafe working method that resulted in a serious fall
Spark's Mechanical Services Ltd, an Aberdeen electrical and refrigeration services company, has been fined £10,000 after a worker was seriously injured when he fell 2.6 metres from a scaffolding tower.
On 19 October 2010, Charles Howie was working on a scaffolding tower at Iceberg Ltd fish processing factory in Fraserburgh to remove two ceiling mounted refrigeration units from the coldstore.
The units were attached to the ceiling by eight bolts; four had been removed and Mr Howie continued to work on the unit before a forklift truck was in place to support it.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Investigation found that at least one of the four remaining bolts fractured while Mr Howie was working on it, causing it to fall and strike the scaffold tower, throwing Mr Howie to the ground. Mr Howie suffered a collapsed lung and five fractured ribs and was unable to return to normal work duties for five months.
The HSE investigation found that Spark's Mechanical Services Ltd, Mr Howie's employer, had not ensured that suitable equipment was in place to support the refrigeration unit while it was being removed. The court was also told that the top guard rails were missing from the working side of the scaffolding platform.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Radcliffe said:
"The company's method of carrying out this type of work appeared to have evolved from custom and practice devised by employees rather than what was actually safe.
"A safe system of work might have included the use of a forklift truck as a support, but it needed to have been underneath the panel before any bolts were removed. It is also crucial that guardrails are always in place around the working platforms of scaffolds to avoid potential falls, often with catastrophic consequences."
Falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injuries in the workplace and are also responsible for many serious injuries. In 2009/10, 38 people in Britain died after work-related falls from height.