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January 21, 2010

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Aircraft-refurb incident was “waiting to happen”

An aviation company has been criticised for failing to put in place fall-protection equipment, after a worker fell five metres while painting an aeroplane.

Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard that Robert Lupton was re-painting an aircraft at Air Livery plc’s base in Filton, Bristol. He was working with a colleague to wrap the plane’s wing in plastic sheeting to protect it from paint stripper, when the incident took place on 10 October 2007.  

To pull the sheeting tight Mr Lupton had to stand on the edge of the wing, but there was no edge protection in place, and he had not been trained to work at height. He then stepped on to the wing flap, which gave way, and he fell to the ground, sustaining a broken elbow and ligament damage. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Christine Haberfield described the working practices as an “accident waiting to happen”. She said: “Air Livery should have taken the steps necessary to protect its workers by putting fall protection in place and checking to ensure that workers were using it.

“Everything may have appeared OK on paper but the practice on the ground encouraged painters to work ahead of themselves and without adequate protection. In this respect, this was an accident waiting to happen.”

Air Livery appeared in court on 11 January and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failing to put in place sufficient measures to prevent an accident. It was fined £2400 and ordered to pay £9162 in costs.

A statement from the company said: “We take health and safety very seriously and deeply regret this incident. We fully cooperated with the HSE’s investigation and subsequently updated the risk assessment and safe working procedures across all of our sites.

“Fall-arrest systems have also been introduced, and all of our staff and supervisors have received work at height training.”


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