Workers exposed to ‘significant’ fall from height risk

Working at height is still a leading cause of workplace deaths and serious injury. All too often, companies fail to consider or to manage the risks.

In a recent case, two companies have been fined after putting workers at risk of falling whilst accessing a roof to repair pipework. In April 2016, contractors who worked for Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited had been hired to repair a section of pipework on the roof of a warehouse in Bilston owned by James Durrans & Sons’ Limited.

The court heard how workers had climbed onto the roof from a ‘man-cage’ lifted into position by a forklift truck. The ‘man-cage’ fell short of the roof level by about three feet and there was a gap between the cage and the roof which workers needed to climb across. Once the workers were on the roof, it was slippery and wet, with no barrier in place to prevent a fall.

Investigating, the HSE identified failings in relation to how the work, specifically access to the roof, was planned, managed and monitored. In particular, neither company had undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, nor had they agreed on a safe system of work for the repair of the pipework which required access to the roof. Instead, each company had assumed that the other had put into place systems that would protect workers from the risks of working at height.

Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited of Shaw Road, Dudley pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,000.

James Durrans & Sons Limited of Anchor Road, Bilston pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 with costs of £20,000.

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Edward Fryer commented: “This incident highlights the need for contractors to be managed properly. Both the contractors and those engaging them must assess the risks of the site and the specific work to ensure it can be done safely. In this case, no risk assessment was carried out and arrangements made to access the roof put workers at significant risk of falling from a height.”