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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
July 14, 2011

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School caretaker fell from unprotected work platform

A school in Essex has been fined for failing to provide training or suitable equipment to allow staff to safely work at height.

The prosecution follows an incident at Shenfield High School, near Brentwood, when a caretaker fell from a work platform, which didn’t have any edge protection. David Springett, 54, and one of his colleagues were recladding the outside of the school’s kitchen when the incident took place on 28 July 2010.

None of the maintenance staff had received work at height training and no risk assessment was carried out before the work started. The men used a work platform to carry out the work, which was expected to take a number of days to complete, but the structure did not have any edge protection. Mr Springett was standing on the platform when he lost his footing and fell 1.9 metres to the ground. He broke two ribs and needed a three-inch metal plate and multiple metal screws inserted into a broken arm.

The HSE issued an Improvement Notice to the school on 27 September 2010, which required it to provide work-at-height training to staff. HSE inspector Corinne Godfrey told SHP that the work had not been properly planned, or, supervised and the school should have provided a mobile scaffold tower so the work could be carried out safely.

Inspector Godfrey said: “As falling from height often results in severe injury or death, the outcome of this incident could have been much worse.

“However, it could have been avoided altogether if an appropriate work platform had been provided by Mr Springett’s employers. The school has a duty to protect its staff and working at height brings with it risks they should be aware of, and protect against.”

Shenfield High School appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 12 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £6500 and ordered to pay costs of £2244.

The school had no previous convictions and during its mitigation it said that the work was completed using a mobile tower scaffold. It also said that it complied with the enforcement notice and has subsequently set up a health and safety committee as well as appointing a new governor to head the committee.

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12 years ago

Is the fact that the regulations are complied with and that a risk assessment is carried out, a copper-bottomed guarantee that an incident will not occur??

12 years ago

Schools and colleges are generally thought of as fairly low risk in terms of health and safety but this proves that even so called low risk areas must be given respect with proper assessment of work projects before thay start.
This school should have got professional trained people in to do this work instead of trying to cut corners and money with untrained employees and followed the correct procedures with work at height regs and risk assessment and this incident would not have taken place.