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July 27, 2010

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Surprise HSE visit identified unsafe work-at-height practices

A construction company has been fined £10,000 for failing to protect its workers from falls from height, following a surprise HSE inspection.

Gee Construction Ltd was the principal contactor for the development of office buildings at a site in Castlegate, Caerphilly, when the HSE visited on 22 October 2009.

The inspector found that lift shafts on the first and second floors were unguarded, and there was only a top guardrail in place to prevent brick-workers from falling from the edge of the first floor.

A Prohibition Notice was issued on the day of the inspection, which required work to stop on the first and second floors until adequate edge protection was installed.

HSE inspector David Kirkpatrick said: “When we visited the site, we found clear failings that left workers at risk of falling from height, and it was necessary to stop all activity above ground=floor level until safe systems of work were put in place.”

The company received a similar Prohibition Notice in September 2008, for failing to put edge protection around the top of a stairwell during work at a residential property.

Gee Construction appeared at Caerphilly Magistrates’ Court on 22 July and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failing to take sufficient measures to prevent falls from height. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £4514 towards costs.

The company has no previous convictions, and it told the court it has increased the frequency of external audits by a safety consultancy. It has also sent all of its site supervisors on training courses for safe work-at-height practices.

Inspector Kirkpatrick added: “As principal contractors, the company was responsible for the safety of everyone on the site. It had previously received warnings from the HSE and its own safety consultants about safely working at height, but clearly this advice had been ignored.

“Fortunately, despite the increased risk, no one was injured on this site, but this case must serve as a warning to companies of the need to ensure working at height is properly managed.”

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13 years ago

I approve of this prosecution.
What always makes me wonder though, is that had there been a fatality, the same prosecution would doubtless have lead to a much larger fine for the same breach?

13 years ago

I agree it would be great to see the HSE given adequate resources to carry out more surprise inspections and prosecute where necessary. I don’t hold out much hope of this being one of Lord Young’s suggestions in his report.

13 years ago

Good to see the HSE taking more non-injury prosecutions. If they’ve told people time and time again, and gone to the effort of giving them Prohibition Notice’s because things are so dangerous, they don’t have much choice but to prosecute them. Good on Inspector Kirkpatrick! Lets see some more.