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January 14, 2011

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Council fined after worker fell down well

A council has been fined for breaching work-at-height regulations after a worker fell six metres down a well while clearing litter from a yard.

On 28 April 2009, three workers from Mansfield District Council were sent to clear litter from the White Lion Yard, which is located off an alleyway in Mansfield town centre. The yard used to house a number of restaurants but is now derelict, and a large amount of rubbish had collected in a well in the yard.

The litter had amassed between a metal grid and a mesh cover over the well. Two of the workers removed the grid, while the third stepped on the mesh, believing it to be solid underneath, so he could clear the waste. However, the mesh gave way and he fell six metres to the bottom of the well. He was rescued by the emergency services and taken to hospital for treatment for a dislocated his elbow and cuts to his head, arms and leg. He was unable to return to work for six months owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Stuart Pilkington told SHP that the workers had not been given any instruction on how to carry out the work. He also revealed that the work could have been completed without removing the grid if they had been supplied with blowers to waft the rubbish off the mesh.

He said: “The work in White Lion Yard needed to be properly planned as, although it appeared to be quite straightforward, workers cleaning the well were clearly at risk from falling into it.

“This worker was extremely lucky to survive but he was quite seriously injured. Falls from height are the biggest causes of workplace deaths and it’s crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out to protect staff from these risks.”

Mansfield District Council appeared at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on 12 January and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £5700 in costs.

In mitigation, the council said it had no previous convictions and has subsequently covered over the top of the well so no litter can get inside.

Following the hearing the council’s head of customer services and partnerships, Mike Farley, said: “Mansfield District Council fully accepts the findings of the magistrates and we would like to apologise for the injury and distress caused to our employee.

“As a result, a number of measures have been introduced, including bespoke training for employees and further clarification of roles and responsibilities for risk assessments and health and safety. New and revised risk assessments have also been implemented to cover town-centre duties.

“Mansfield District Council takes its role as a health-and-safety-conscious employer extremely seriously and previously had an excellent record in this regard.”
 

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