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October 1, 2008

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Worker suffers lasting injuries from ladder fall

A container company has been fined after an employee was seriously injured in a fall from a ladder.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court was told that on 21 September 2007 containers were being cut in half to make storage units at the Grays, Essex, premises of Lakeside Container Services, a firm that specialises in shipping-container conversions.

The containers were being stored four units high, although the forklift truck used to transport them could only reach three units high.

The containers were routinely lifted two at a time. During a lift, one of the containers that was balanced on top of another slipped on to the mast of the forklift, and disabled it.

When a maintenance engineer climbed up a ladder perched between stacks of containers to try to rectify the problem, he slipped and fell 7.5 metres, breaking his leg both above and below the knee, and sustained a fractured skull and broken neck.

As a result of the fall, the employee was unable to work for six months. He has since returned to the firm, but in an administrative role. “His quality of life has suffered as a result of this accident,” David King, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case, told SHP.

The HSE’s investigation found that there had been a lack of planning and risk assessment for securing the containers.

The company cited its good safety record by way of mitigation. It had taken steps to ensure such an incident could not happen again, and it said it had not instructed the engineer to climb the ladder. But the inspector remarked: “If they hadn’t been lifting two containers at once, the accident would not have happened.”

Inspector King added: “Every week one person in Great Britain dies due to a slip, trip or fall in the workplace. In eastern England last year they accounted for nearly a third of all injuries.

“What the figures don’t reflect is the extent to which such an incident can affect individual workers and their families. [An incident] can lead to major injuries and a lifetime of disability, or extended time off work. In this case the employee has lasting physical injuries, which have affected his capabilities at work and have also impacted on his leisure time.”

The magistrates fined Lakeside Container Services a total of £13,400, plus £3380 full costs on 22 September. The company pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure its employees’ safety — fine £10,000; and reg.6(1)(b)(ii) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) by failing to reduce the risk of falling loads — fine £3400.

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