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April 9, 2014

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Builder fined £10,000 after plasterer’s fall from height

A house builder has been fined £10,000 after a worker was seriously injured in a fall when a temporary handrail gave way.

The 23-year-old, from Gateshead was working for Bellway Homes Ltd at a site in Earsdon View, Shiremoor, when the incident happened on 4 December 2012.

North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how the agency worker had been clearing rubbish on the first floor of a property nearing completion and was on the landing talking to another worker in the ground floor hallway.

As she leant on the temporary handrail on the landing, it gave way causing her to fall about 2.6 metres to the floor below.

She broke her right wrist, fractured her forehead, jaw and cheekbone, and sustained a hairline fracture to her right hip. She also severed tendons in her left hand and suffered extensive bruising to her face, neck and back.

She had to have a metal plate inserted into her right arm and required further surgery to ease later complications. She was unable to work as a labourer for six months and still suffers constant pain. The court heard it is unlikely she will ever be able to return to her usual trade as a plasterer.

The HSE investigation found that the temporary handrail was a single piece of timber fixed to the protective cover of an upright post at one side and nailed with one nail into a timber door frame at the other side, which was where it gave way. There was no mid-rail to provide additional support.

The HSE prosecuted Bellway Homes Limited for safety failings after investigating the incident. The court heard that the company had failed to provide suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the fall and that, had a more robust handrail been in place, the incident could have been avoided.

Bellway Homes Limited, of Seaton Burn House, Dudley Lane, Seaton Burn, Newcastle, was fined £10,000 and orderd to pay £904.70 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the sentencing, HSE inspector Emma Scott, said: “The incident could easily have been prevented if Bellway Homes Limited had ensured that temporary guard rails were erected and installed correctly.

“Instead, a young worker has been left with serious injuries which are still causing her pain and may well prevent her from continuing work in her chosen trade.

“The significant dangers of death and serious injury associated with falls from height during construction work are well known and long standing in the industry, and working on a landing area without suitable safety measures in place is simply not acceptable.”

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