Work at Height Health and Safety – Workers Fined for lack of Safety

Work at height safety – failure to provide a safe work platform is a dangerous way to work at height. In this case, the lack of a suitable and safe work platform for work at height safety led to two managers being prosecuted.

In this case, two industrial estate managers were each fined £8000 after they attached 15 wooden pallets to the forks of a forklift truck so that they could reach a street light that was 9 metres up in the air. Lancaster City Council prosecuted Jonathan Shaw and Stephen Fawcett after investigating a report from a passer-by, who saw the men fixing the light on Vickers Industrial Estate in Morecombe.

A metal cage was provided that was intended to be attached to the fork lift truck. Unfortunately, the cage was strapped into a pile of 15 pallets which where then lifted by the forklift truck. Mr Fawcett was standing in the cage while Mr Shaw was standing at the base of the forklift looking up. Mr  Fawcett was at risk of falling from height. Mr Shaw was at risk of injury falling from falling objects, including the cage, Mr Fawcett and the pallets, as well as any tools being used. Mr Fawcett did not have a harness and lanyard, or other safety equipment to prevent him from falling, and there were no measures on the ground to prevent people coming close to the operation (a robust exclusion zone was not established).

It s understood that the 15 timber pallets and the cage were held together by one ratchet-tensioned webbing strap attached around the width of the pallets. There was no strap tying together the pallets and cage from front to back, nor were the pallets locked to the forklift truck.

The council concluded that the arrangement for work at height safety “was at best precarious and at worst reckless, being potentially dangerous to anyone using it or anyone near it”.

Lancaster Magistrates’ Court was told that Fawcett had previously been given safety advice and warned about work at height safety. In  January 2015, both men (who were self-employed) pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as the fine, each defendant must pay a victim surcharge of £120, together with costs of £1681. Karen Leytham, cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, said the council’s investigation had revealed “serious and wilful failures”.