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April 16, 2014

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£75,000 in fines for companies after worker’s fall leaves his back permanently damaged


Two Aberdeen construction firms have been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was left with life-changing injuries when he fell almost four metres through a hole in the first floor of a hotel in Aberdeen. The principal contractor had weeks earlier been served an improvement notice by the HSE regarding working at height. 
Scott Massie, then aged 37, was working to replace a floorboard over a hole in the first floor, one of several that had been used to hoist materials up to the floors above. But as he manoeuvred the board into position, he and the board fell through the hole.
He landed on his back nearly four metres below, fracturing his spine in several places. No one heard him call out for help and he had to crawl back up to the first floor before colleagues found him.
He suffered eight fractures of the vertebrae, two broken ribs and was in hospital for almost eight weeks. He had to undergo physiotherapy to learn how to walk again and has been diagnosed as having permanent damage to his lower back.
Mr Massie was employed by Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, which had been subcontracted by Aberdeen Fabrication Limited (A-FAB) to work on a major refurbishment project at the premises in Market Street.
Peterhead Sheriff Court heard yesterday (15 April) that the HSE had, just a few weeks earlier, served an improvement notice on principal contractor A-FAB following a site inspection after discovering failings in how work at height was being carried out and had given the company time to put specific improvements in place.
HSE’s investigation into Mr Massie’s fall found the hole was part of a temporary hoist shaft installed on the instruction of the site manager, which consisted of holes in all four floor levels.
Boards placed over the holes when the hoist was not in use was the only measure to prevent a person falling through. Riverside’s supervisor intended that they be put in position by two people and screwed down, but this was not always done and there were no guards around the hole when the hoist was in use.
HSE identified that A-FAB had failed to sufficiently address the safety issues in the improvement notice and that both companies had failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent persons from falling a distance likely to cause personal injury and, in particular, failed to ensure that holes in the floors were adequately guarded or that other means were in place to prevent persons approaching and falling through said holes.
Aberdeen Fabrication Limited, of Carden Place, Aberdeen, was fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, of Bon-Accord Crescent, Aberdeen, was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Following the case, HSE principal inspector Isabelle Martin, said: “It was clear there was a risk of a fall through the holes in the floor at this site and had Aberdeen Fabrications Limited and Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited taken the action required by HSE inspectors this incident could have been avoided.
“But as a result of the failings of his employer Riverside Construction and the principal contractor Aberdeen Fabrications, Mr Massie has suffered severe injuries from which he is unlikely to ever fully recover.
“Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths, and there is no excuse for employers failing to protect workers who may be at risk from falls from open and unprotected edges, whether in floors or roofs, or any high level.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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