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November 25, 2011

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Worker injured in fall from unsuitable platform on lift truck

A building firm and its sub-contractor have appeared in court to answer charges relating to a fall-from-height incident in which a worker sustained serious injuries.

Waddington Buildings Ltd, of Brompton on Swale in North Yorkshire, had sub-contracted Stephen Ramsey, trading as Up & Cover, to carry out steel erection work and cladding on a farm building in Billingham.

Sitting on 21 November, Teesside magistrates heard that on 29 August 2010, the 36-year-old worker, who does not want to be named, was standing on a pallet fitted to a fork attachment of a tractor. The pallet was lifted to heights of around four-and-a-half metres, to allow the worker to measure and fit guttering to the building.

But, as investigating and prosecuting HSE inspector Natalie Wright explained to SHP, this method of work was not safe. Although using a work platform on a lift truck is a viable method of work at height, the platform must be fully integrated and properly constructed, with controls that are linked to and isolate the truck, and which can be used by the person on the platform.

In this incident, the pallet being used was just an “ordinary” pallet, said the inspector, and the worker had no control of the movement of the vehicle, which was being driven by Stephen Ramsey. When it unexpectedly moved with the pallet in a raised position, the worker lost his balance and fell to the ground.

Because his left heel was smashed and his right ankle fractured, he had to spend 15 days in hospital and his treatment is ongoing.

Stephen Ramsey, of Bedale, pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1)(c ) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to ensure the task at height was carried out safely. He was fined £1000 and ordered to pay £250 in costs.

Waddington Buildings Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974 by failing to safeguard the injured worker. It was fined £3500 plus costs of £900.

Said Inspector Wright: “They could have used a cherry-picker, or a proper working platform in the right way. There is guidance on this in the HSE’s ‘Why fall for it?’ leaflet and in our Guidance Note PM28, ‘Working platforms (non-integrated) on forklift trucks’.

“The guidance says ‘never work from an ordinary pallet’, which they did in this case, and that the person on the platform should be able to control the movement of the truck, which he wasn’t. There wasn’t anything to prevent him from falling, either.”

She concluded: “This incident could and should have been avoided and demonstrates how important it is for work at height to be properly planned and safely undertaken. There are many well-known methods of fall prevention that would have been reasonably practicable to use in this situation. The incident also highlights the need for companies engaging sub-contractors to make appropriate enquiries to determine their competence.”

Stephen Ramsey is no longer operating as a sole trader but is undergoing construction training. Waddington Buildings Ltd has agreed to a post-prosecution meeting with the HSE to discuss lessons learnt and receive advice on how to work safely in the future.

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