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May 23, 2014

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Firm to pay £126,000 after worker paralysed

A construction firm has been fined over £126,000 in fines and costs after a worker was left paralysed from the waist down.
The 38-year-old from Beckenham damaged his spinal cord after falling eight metres from an unguarded window space into a basement.
He is no longer able to walk or work and has had to overcome major physical and emotional trauma as he adjust to life in a wheelchair.
His employer Habitat Construction LLP was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 22 May for safety failings following an investigation by HSE.
The court heard that the worker was part of a team transforming two former Victorian hostels into four single town houses, a project that involved demolition, refurbishment and new-build activity.
During the work, windows were removed from the buildings, which HSE established happened in an ad-hoc and uncontrolled manner. They were taken out at various times and for a variety of reasons, but no measures were put in place to prevent a fall through the spaces it created, such as boarding or guard rails. This meant there were open voids for a period of some four to six weeks.
The missing windows included several on a raised first floor area, which created openings at just above floor level.
The worker fell through one of the missing windows in this area while attempting to connect a temporary electricity supply, losing his balance and plunging eight metres onto the concrete floor of a basement below.
The court was told the non-guarding of the windows posed a clear danger and that it put multiple Habitat Construction employees and sub-contractors at unnecessary risk because any one of them could have fallen in a similar manner.
Habitat Construction LLP, of Southwark Street, London, SE1, was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £16,620 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector, Tony Webb said: “This was an entirely preventable fall that left an employee with permanent, life-changing injuries.
“We found a catalogue of working at height risks throughout the site, including the use of simple netting as edge protection to a deep excavation and the removal of windows without installing appropriate protection.
“The unguarded windows posed a clear and extremely serious risk, not only for this unfortunate worker but for others at the site who worked near, what were effectively, open voids.
“Sub-contractors were also placed in danger because there was nothing to stop equipment or debris from falling from the window spaces.
“The onus was on Habitat Construction to ensure appropriate safety measures were in place, but the company clearly failed its legal responsibilities in this regard.”

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