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May 16, 2011

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Nottingham steeplejack firm fined £100K for fatal fall

A man fell 34 metres to his death through an open grating in a platform on a chimney at Sutton Bridge Power Station, Lincolnshire, where he had been setting up abseiling equipment so that the chimney could be painted.

Leicester Crown Court fined Central (High Rise) of Sneinton, Nottingham, £100,000 and ordered it to pay full costs of £32,000 on 13 May after the firm pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the Sutton Bridge incident, which took place on 13 March 2008,  and a separate incident on 14 August 2009 at Nottingham Castle, where a fall from height because the wrong equipment was used for abseiling led to a maintenance worker receiving serious back injuries.

The Court heard that Central had failed to make sure the work at both locations was carried out safely, putting several employees at serious risk. At Nottingham Castle, the company also failed to ensure the work was properly supervised, while at the Power Station, it failed to make a proper assessment of the risks and did not properly manage and monitor the work.

Central (High Rise) pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA by not ensuring its employees’ safety, and to a breach of reg. 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to plan, supervise and carry out the work in a safe manner.

The company said in mitigation that it had a good safety record and had tried to develop its health and safety systems and procedures. It had won several RoSPA awards for health and safety in the past. It now insisted that twin harnesses are used when abseiling on power stations.

HSE inspector Martin Giles, who investigated the incidents, commented: “The work at the power station required careful planning and assessment of the risks involved. Tragically, the company failed to make sure the rigging of the ropes was done safely and the result was the needless death of an employee.

“At Nottingham Castle, the two men should not have been allowed to abseil with the ropes they used, but Central failed in its duty to properly supervise the work to make sure it was carried out safely. Luckily the injured man has since made a full recovery but his injuries could easily have been much worse.”

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