A salad company has admitted failing to put a safe system of work in place prior to an incident in which a worker fell through a greenhouse roof.
The 44-year-old man was part of a team cleaning and repainting 20 greenhouse gutters at Hedon Salads Ltd’s premises in Burstwick, Hull, when the incident took place on 26 August 2010. The greenhouses are used for cultivating tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers and have an average size of 5000 square metres.
The team was instructed to walk heel-to-toe along the gutters and to use a long-handled brush to steady themselves against the glazing bars. The worker had completed a short length of paintwork when his right foot went through the glass, causing him to fall through the fragile roof. He landed on the ground more than four metres below and suffered a broken wrist and a head wound, which required 20 staples. He was unable to return to work for nearly four months owing to his injuries.
The HSE investigated the incident and found the company hadn’t trained the team how to work at height and failed to provide them with any fall-prevention equipment. A Prohibition Notice was subsequently issued to the firm, which required the work to stop until adequate safety measures were put in place.
HSE inspector Andrew Gale said: “This employee was extremely lucky not to have suffered more severe injuries, or even lost his life, in a fall of more than four metres. It could have easily been prevented by providing the proper equipment, such as a lightweight walking frame.
“This case highlights how important it is for employers to identify the risks involved in working at height, particularly near fragile materials, and taking the necessary steps to reduce those risks and prevent falls.”
Hedon Salads Ltd appeared at Hull Magistrates’ Court on 2 November and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.9(2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £12,500, plus £3921 in costs.
The firm said it complied with the enforcement notice by purchasing a lightweight balancing frame, which spreads the weight of workers over a larger area of the roof. It had no previous convictions and cooperated with the investigation.
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