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Examples of enforcement - Working at height

Successful prosecution following a fall from a catering hi-loader

An employee of a catering company was pushing a catering trolley between a hi-loader vehicle and a Boeing 767 when a loose metal bridge plate that spanned the vehicle and the aircraft moved. The employee fell approximately five metres to the ground sustaining severe injuries.

The employee had not been trained in the use of the hi-loader controls, which were significantly different from the other vehicles on the fleet. This led to the incorrect positioning of the hi-loader in relation to the aircraft.

The investigation revealed that the company had engaged a consultant to undertake risk assessments following previous HSE enforcement, but had ignored warnings regarding the hazards associated with working at height. A similar near miss had occurred a week earlier and was reported, but no action was taken and the report was lost. The company had undergone a complete change of senior management since the incident.

Outcome:

The investigation led to a successful prosecution. The magistrates were not swayed by the size of the defence bundle (227 pages) and the company was fined £12,000 with full costs of £2,181 being awarded to HSE.

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Poor working at height standards in a small dock company

During a number of visits by HSE to a small dock company a range of work at height issues were identified. The issues included:

Outcome:

In all 7 Prohibition Notices (PN) and one Improvement Notice was served on the company. A proactive Prosecution was also brought against the company for its poor standards in dealing with risks from working at height. Five informations were laid against the company under the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The charges covered planning and supervision; training and competence; suitable and sufficient measures to prevent injury from a fall from height; provision of suitable guards and work equipment inspection.

The company pleaded guilty to all offences and was fined a total of £12,500 (£2,500 per breach). HSE was awarded full costs of £2908.40.

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Prosecution following a fall from height at a chemical works

An employee fell approximately 11 feet (3.6 metres) on to a first floor gantry when checking a bag filter on a second floor. The employee stepped backwards through a trap door when carrying out a daily check of a spray-dryer bag filter. The employee received very severe injuries. At the time no formal procedures were in place to ensure that measures were in place to prevent falls on occasions when the trap door needed to be open.

Outcome:

Following the accident an Improvement Notice was served requiring the employer to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments for maintenance activities. The company were successfully prosecuted, fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs.

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Poor working at height and manual handling practices at an aircraft maintenance company

Following a report of an accident at an aircraft maintenance firm HSE’s investigation revealed that the current standard practice for working at height was not being carried out. Despite concern from employees the firm was still using traditional access methods (ladders & stepladders) instead of access platforms purpose built for the aircraft type. In addition no consideration had been given to a range of manual handling issues associated with the removal of aircraft parts such as heavy batteries. It was clear the company was not fully aware of the risks or of current standards & guidance.

Outcome:

The company was served with Improvement Notices for both fall from height and manual handling issues, which included direct involvement by the managing director. Following the Notices the firm began to make major changes costing many thousands of pounds and which will result in major changes to working practices and procedures and a substantial lowering of the risks for workers from both fall from height and manual handling.

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Updated 2009-02-06