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June 21, 2012

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Building firm failed to assess fall risks

A bricklayer broke his back when he fell through exposed floor joints inside a building in Cheshire.

The 40-year-old, who has asked not to be named, was sub-contracted to carry out brickwork during a project to refurbish a corner shop into four one-bedroom houses. Frank Rodgers (Building Contractor) Ltd was the principal contractor at the site on Albert Road, in Widnes.

On 3 May last year, the bricklayer stepped through a window frame on to a trestle, which was positioned on the first floor of the building, and lost his balance. He fell between the exposed floor joists and landed on the ground, three metres below. He suffered a broken back and is still unable to work owing to his injuries.

Warrington Magistrates’ Court heard that there was no internal staircase in the building, so workers had to climb up a ladder, or through the window opening from scaffolding to access the first floor. There were no boards covering the joists and no measures in place to prevent internal falls.

HSE inspector Dr Tom Baldwin said: “Frank Rogers (Building Contractors) Ltd didn’t consider the risks of workers being injured in a fall ahead of the work starting and, as a result, no measures were put in place to prevent falls.

“If the company had taken simple safety measures, such as covering the joists with wooden boards, then lives would not have been put at risk.”

Frank Rogers (Building Contractors) Ltd appeared in court on 13 June and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £13,500 and ordered to pay £7509 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had entered an early guilty plea and cooperated with the investigation. Immediately following the incident it placed boards over the joists and put large beanbags on the ground floor to protect workers in the event of a fall.

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12 years ago

Another early plea of “its a fair cop guv’nor!” and “I’m doing now what I should have done before I put my employees in harms way!”

Mr Rogers – Frank, do the sums! Fitting the bean bags and the boards has just cost you £21009 more than it would have, had you complied with the law before you let this chap fall. I don’t know how much the ambulance chasers will roll you for, but if he’s still off work after a year, it’s gonna hurt you financially – especially when you come to reinsure!

12 years ago

WAH states that where practicable you must limit the distance and consequences of falls.

The placement of bean bags on the lower floor some 2m below the joists does not control the risk of considerable impact on the joist, which could conceivably break your kneck. Or worse still knacker you if straddled.

Placement of any fall protection should be as near to the underside of the joist as possible, or in this instance covered to prevent the fall of either materials, tools or persons?