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November 24, 2010

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Foam firm fined for second time in a fortnight

Foam manufacturer Recticel Ltd has been prosecuted by the HSE for the second time in a fortnight after a worker fell though a fragile roof at its Derbyshire factory.

On 28 January 2009, a handyman was repairing a leaking roof at the firm’s factory in Alfreton. The worker, who does not want to be named, was led on to the roof by a technician who was already carrying out work in the area. They were told to follow a ‘safe route’ to walk across the asbestos cement roof, which involved walking on steel guttering on the edge of the roof.

Once the worker had finished fixing the leak he began walking back across the guttering, which was laid across a number of rooflights. As he did so, he stepped on one of the rooflights and fell six metres, landing on a section of foam on a conveyor belt below. He suffered tissue damage and was off work for six weeks.

The HSE’s investigation found that the company offered a permit-to-work system for all maintenance jobs. On this occasion, however, the company did not issue an individual permit to the worker, but instead added him to an existing permit issued to the technician on the roof, who was working on a separate job. This meant no risk assessment had been carried out before the worker was allowed access to the roof to fix the leak.

HSE inspector Noelle Walker said: “Work at height remains one of the biggest causes of injury in the workplace. The work had not been properly planned by Recticel and the company failed to take into account the risk posed by the rooflight.

“Proper planning is as important for small, short-term roof repairs as it is for larger jobs and, in this case, it would have prevented a worker being injured.”

Recticel appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court on 17 November and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4(1) and reg. 9(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined a total of £13,000 and £5098 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had safe working procedures in place in the form of permits-to-work, but the manager did not follow the procedure and allowed the worker to carry out the job without an individual permit. It has also decided to stop undertaking work of this nature in house, and now hires external contractors.

Recticel was also prosecuted on 5 November after a lorry driver suffered a broken back when a pile of insulation boards fell on him during a delivery at its facility in Staffordshire. The firm pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £6238 and ordered to pay full costs of £11,762.

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