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June 14, 2021

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in court

School fined after worker injured in fall from ladder

Southend High School for Boys Academy Trust has been sentenced after a worker fell from a ladder.

The injured person was using an unsecured ladder at the school to dismantle a canopy roof. The ladder slipped, causing the worker to fall and sustain fractures to his face, a fractured femur and other injuries. The incident happened on 19 February 2019.

The HSE’s investigation found that:

  • The school did not have a risk assessment or safe system for dismantling the canopy roof which resulted in the work being conducted unsafely.
  • No assessment was made as to the fragility of the roof before accessing it.
  • Suitable equipment was not provided.
  • The injured person was not trained.
  • The work was not supervised.
  • Other work at height at the school was also carried out without specific planning, supervision and was not carried out safely.

Southend High School for Boys Academy Trust of Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff On Sea, Essex pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It has been fined £24,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,446.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Eleanor Kinman said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the serious injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”

Dennis Seaton, Chair of the Ladder Association’s Training Committee, said: “Ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low risk and short duration tasks (maximum 30 minutes), but they shouldn’t automatically be your first choice. The law states that ladders can be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.

“Unfortunately, this case highlights the effect a lack of planning can have on using the right type of equipment for working at height and in doing so, the Trust failed in its duty to ensure the safety of its employee. At the Ladder Association, we strongly believe training is an important contribution in keeping people safe when working at height and that training is about more than just using the ladder; it’s about understanding when it’s right to use a ladder (and importantly when it’s not), choosing the right ladder and then understanding the simple steps to take to use the ladder safely.”

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