Work at Height Guidance for Small Operators (Britain)

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overhauled its guidance for small companies and individuals. Information on this overhaul is here.

ACoPs and HSGs are unchanged.

The overhauled guidance comprises:

(1) Basic advice for those working at height – here.

(2) Common work at height myths – here.

(3) Information on the Do’s and Don’t’s – here.

HSE Injuries and Fatalities Roundup (UK) (9 Jan)

Unsafe skid steer loader causes a fatality – HSE said: “Amin Qabil’s life was brought to an end after he suffered horrific injuries caused by a vehicle that should never have been in use. Blackburn Skip Hire should have made sure the skid steer loader it bought at auction was safe to use, and that workers were properly trained. Instead vital safety features had been disabled and lives were put at risk as a result. The company and its owner had a legal and moral duty to look after the safety of Mr Qabil, but sadly their failings led to him losing his life. The waste and recycling sector has been classified as one of the most dangerous industries in Britain, with a death rate that is 16 times the national average. The latest figures show a total of ten workers lost their lives in the industry in 2012/13.” HSE Press Release is here.

Steelwork collapse causes injury to roof workers – HSE said: “This incident had enormous potential for loss of life. The canopy collapsed suddenly and violently without warning taking the five roofers that were on it down over 13 metres to the ground on what can only be described as a terror ride. It is a miracle that they were not more seriously injured or even killed. Other construction workers had been working directly under the school canopy for most of the day installing windows in the new school. Fortunately they were not under the canopy when it collapsed. The company had fabricated the steelwork for the canopy and failed to ensure that critical welds within the design of the steel truss were completed to the required specification and size. This failure led the canopy to collapse as more roofing material was added. It is vital that companies carrying out this type of work have suitable and sufficient quality control measures in place in order to ensure that the structural integrity of the new building is never in question.” HSE Press Release is here.

Absence of machinery guards causes hand injury – HSE said: “Easibake Foods failed to take effective measures to prevent access to potentially dangerous parts of its machinery, therefore exposing wokers to the risk of injury. This was a completely needless and entirely preventable incident that left an employee with painful injuries. The company should have used a fixed guard to prevent access to the dividing blades. Sadly, it is not uncommon for employees in the food manufacturing industry to be injured when cleaning unguarded, operating machinery. HSE will not hesitate to prosecute companies where key safety devices are not fitted to potentially dangerous machinery.” HSE Press Release is here.

Poor machinery guarding causes injury – HSE said: “There is no excuse for companies to operate machinery without protecting employees and other workers from the dangerous parts. The requirement for guarding is well known and recognised across industry not least because the risks are obvious. Had the machine had adequate guarding and a safe system of work implemented to isolate the machine, the serious and painful injury to this young and inexperienced worker could have been avoided.” HSE Press Release is here.

Use of an unguarded magnetic drill causes injury – HSE said: “The incident was an entirely preventable one. Magnetic drills come supplied with guards, which are obviously there for a reason and should be used. The issue of gloves and drilling machines is one that is well known – rigger-type gloves don’t tear easily and should not be worn during fixed drilling work. Last year, about 13 per cent of major injuries reported involved contact with moving machinery. Companies must ensure equipment is effectively guarded and their workers are suitably protected from dangerous moving parts.” HSE Press Release is here.

Workplace transport vehicle reversing causes fatal injury – HSE said: “Mr Gleeson’s tragic death was entirely preventable, and could have been avoided had the sole trader (and driver) taken precautions before reversing his van. Managing the movement of vehicles at his premises was entirely his responsibility and it is clear there was no system in place to control this. Pedestrians and vehicles should always be segregated, and if that cannot happen then other precautions should be put in place. On this occasion that should, at the very least, have included checking the rear of the van before reversing with assistance if necessary, or putting in place a system that meant he did not have to reverse from his premises, neither of which happened.” HSE Press Release is here.

Work at height fall causes serious injury – HSE said: “Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry. The worker in this case suffered life-changing injuries, but it could easily have resulted in death. It is also fortunate that a colleague who was on the roof with him was not injured. This incident could have been prevented had the defendant put in place effective arrangements to ensure the risks were managed and workers were protected. The latest HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12.” HSE Press Release is here.

Tree felling causes a fatality – The Buccleuch Estates Limited of Weatherhouse, Bowhill, Selkirk, was fined £140,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. HSE said: “This was an entirely avoidable incident and the failures by The Buccleuch Estate directly resulted in Mr Findlay’s tragic death. A system of waves and nods is not a safe way to manage the felling of large, heavy trees and put all three workers at unnecessary risk. This informal and unsafe way of working had been in place unchallenged and not updated for over 15 years with the Estate making no efforts to follow industry safety guidelines or to even accurately assess the risks its workers faced. As a result a vulnerable man has been killed.” HSE Press Release is here.

Carbon monoxide poisoning in a confined space leads to a fatality – Sheffield Forgemasters Steel Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £125,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. HSE said: “This was a very upsetting incident that resulted in the needless death of an employee. It could have been an even worse tragedy as it was pure chance that another four workers who entered the cellar in a desperate bid to save their colleague did not also perish. Exposure to between 10-15 per cent of carbon dioxide in air for more than a minute causes drowsiness and unconsciousness. Exposure to 17-30 per cent in air is fatal is less than one minute. Carbon dioxide is poisonous even if there is an otherwise sufficient supply of oxygen. The risks associated with confined spaces are well known in industry and there is an entire set of regulations dealing with controlling the risks associated with them. Multiple fatalities do occur when one person gets into difficulty in such a space and then the rescuers are similarly overcome. Sheffield Forgemasters had given no thought to the risks associated with the task being undertaken by their employee, nor had they provided emergency rescue equipment. This case shows how important it is for companies to effectively risk assess work activities, looking at how the work will be carried out and in what circumstances.” HSE Press Release is here.

HSE Injuries and Fatalities Roundup (UK) (7 Jan)

Poor gas repair work leads to gas ignition which put the injured person in a coma for three months – HSE said: “Mr Smith suffered horrific injuries in the explosion which will affect him for the rest of his life, but he could easily have been killed. Having burnt through the cables while using a blow torch, it would have been obvious to Mr Laffin that the cables were severely damaged. He should have made sure they were properly repaired but instead he just wrapped them in tape. Mr Laffin clearly wasn’t competent to carry out electrical work, and he should have brought in an electrician if he didn’t know what he was doing. Working with gas and electricity are classified as specialist trades for a reason, and it’s therefore vital workers stick to their area of expertise so lives aren’t put at risk.” HSE Press Release is here.

Pipe rupture causes acid burns – HSE found the company had failed to make sure its pipework – the company has around 9,250 metres of it – was in a safe condition and corrosion had been allowed to take hold of the section that carried the acid. HSE Press Release is here.

Work at height fall causes severe injuries – HSE said: “The dangers of working at height are well known, yet workers undertaking roof work and building maintenance sometimes die or are permanently disabled because of the poor safety standards and lack of safeguards that still exist among some contractors. It is essential that the hazards associated with working at height are recognised and understood by the client who commissions the work. The client must make sure the individual or company they employ is competent to carry out roof work and is aware of the hazards and precautions that need to be taken for the work to be carried out safely. Geoff Thompson did not properly assess Mr Davies’ arrangements for health and safety and determine whether he would be able to do the work safely and without risk. This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all involved in construction projects, including clients, that they have a legal duty to ensure work at height is properly planned and robust safety precautions are put in place.” HSE Press Release is here.

Drain cleaner sodium hydroxide causes skin burns – HSE investigation found a leisure centre operator had failed to put a robust system of work in place for cleaning drainage in the changing room for a swimming pool. This system should not only have included clear instructions on how the drains should be cleaned, but also established whose responsibility it was to clean drains. The company also failed to properly assess its use of chemicals and provide proper training on the use of these chemicals. HSE Press Release is here.

Forklift truck reversing results in fatality – Mapei UK Limited of Steel Park Road, Halesowen, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and was fined a total of £173,332. The amount of costs to be paid will be agreed at a later date. HSE said: “Numerous health and safety failings by Mapei UK Ltd led to this tragic incident in which Mr Davies needlessly lost his life. The dangers associated with vehicle movements are obvious and have been highlighted by HSE for many years. There were long-term, systematic failings by the company to adequately assess the risks and take sufficient control measures to ensure the transport yard was operated without posing a risk to the safety of those working there. Since Mr Davies’ death, Mapei UK Ltd has implemented more effective controls of vehicle movements, limiting movements to one vehicle at a time and installing a traffic marshal to supervise vehicle manoeuvres. The operation which Mr Davies was carrying out is also now done away from other vehicles.” HSE Press Release is here.

Fall from tractor causes serious injuries – the injured person had been standing on the cross shaft arms at the back of the tractor when he fell, resulting in one broken and one shattered wrist, two broken arms and multiple skull fractures. He underwent several operations to put pins and plates in both arms and was unable to work for over a month. HSE found the agricultural sales company had not provided any measures to prevent falls. There was no plan for the work, no safe system of working and no suitable training or supervision. HSE Press Release is here.

Unauthorised scaffolding guardrail adjustment leads to a co-worker fall which broke his back – HSE said: “What happened that day could easily have been avoided and will affect the injured man for the rest of his life. Scaffolding should only be altered by scaffolders, but a colleague took it upon himself to adjust some scaffolding when he was not authorised to do so, with disastrous consequences. He had no ulterior motive – like most construction workers he was simply trying to get on with the job when a problem arose that he was trying to overcome. The consequences of the incident have had a huge impact upon him as well. I hope this case makes construction workers stop and think before putting themselves and their colleagues at risk by altering scaffolding on building sites.” HSE Press Release is here.

Poorly secured forklift load causes crushing injury – HSE said: “This was an entirely preventable incident which resulted in an employee having to have part of his leg amputated. His whole life has been affected by the shortcomings of this company. No effort was made to plan the work in advance, despite it being a highly unusual activity for employees at the factory. The firm should have considered the risks and found a safe way of moving the fish tank. If it had been secured to a pallet and loaded onto a larger vehicle, rather than a van, than the terrible injuries the worker suffered could have been avoided.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failures leads to entrapment – HSE said: “The company failed to guard this machine and the gap was large enough to allow the worker access to dangerous moving machine parts. Sadly for her this incident was both foreseeable and preventable. Luckily, colleagues were quickly able to release her, which minimised her injuries. However, it has had a massive impact on her and she has only recently returned to work, some 18 months after the incident. This prosecution should send a strong signal to companies to identify and act on the risks presented by production machinery and to review the measures they have in place regularly.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failings leads to serious injury – HSE said: “It is very disappointing that this company had not learned the lessons following a prosecution for a very similar incident and allowed the same failings to continue to exist in a neighbouring department. The process of risk assessment is a vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with the relevant statutory provisions. In this case the process of risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient and this, together with the company’s failure to heed warnings, has meant that a very obvious risk has been left to exist for many years. Preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery is long established and there are ample guidance and industry standards to allow dutyholders to achieve compliance with the law. This incident was entirely avoidable and the worker should have been better protected by his employer.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failings again leads to serious injury – HSE inspector said: “Mr Howkins’ life has been devastated by the horrific injuries he sustained as a result of The Artisan Press failing to effectively prevent access to dangerous moving machinery. Incidents where workers are injured, or even killed, by moving machinery are easily avoided if employers provide suitable guarding. Effective measures were not taken by The Artisan Press Ltd to prevent their workforce from accessing dangerous moving parts, in this case the stacker and sword drive mechanism. In addition, safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are required to control the risks during both production and maintenance activities.” HSE Press Release is here.

Another work at height fall causes injury – HSE Inspector said: “The worker sustained a serious injury that could have been avoided had a safer system of work been used for removing the fragile sheets. The risk of serious or even fatal injury is high and eminently foreseeable with this type of work, and it is vital that the correct equipment and methods are in place. The company eventually got it right by working from inside the building and avoiding the need to physically go onto the roof, but it is sad that it took a serious incident before this happened.” HSE Press Release is here.

Methyl iodide exposure causes serious injury – HSE Inspector said: “The multiple failings arising from this prosecution are extremely serious and could have had even more devastating consequences. Two of those exposed to methyl iodide have been left with permanent, life-changing after effects. The lack of competent management, control and understanding of the site’s major hazard and chemical processes could have led to these being fatal investigations, as could the incident to the workers who were exposed to methylene chloride. Euticals Limited and Archimica Chemicals Ltd, were fully aware of the standards required to protect workers and ensure that equipment, systems and processes were fit for purpose, yet there is clear evidence of systematic health and safety failings over a prolonged period despite continue advice and support from the regulator to gain compliance. Health and safety should not be neglected, overlooked or compromised, especially in a high risk environment where there are hazardous and dangerous substances.”

Natural Resources Wales said: “Companies that deal with potentially hazardous chemicals, like Euticals Ltd, have permits with strict conditions in place to protect the local communities and the surrounding environment. Despite advice and support from our officers, the company consistently failed to meet the conditions and standards we set, placing local people, the environment and their own staff at risk.”

HSE Press Release is here.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) detected – HSE Inspector said: “A number of employees of Onesubsea UK Ltd developed debilitating symptoms or suffered worsening of existing symptoms. As a result the lives of some have been forever changed. HAVS is preventable but once the damage is done, and it can be permanent. Focus should be placed on eliminating or controlling exposure to vibration. There are cost-effective and simple ways of reducing the risk of HAVS which should be implemented. A good health surveillance system is vital to detect signs of vibration-related symptoms at an early stage. It is imperative that management then respond actively and appropriately to any such signs. Onesubsea UK Ltd did not comply with their statutory duties for a period of several years despite being aware of the risks associated with the use of vibrating hand tools. Their management of health and safety fell well below acceptable standards and a number of workers are now paying the price. HAVS is serious and disabling, and nearly two million people are at risk. Damage impacts on hand and finger dexterity, including the inability to undertake minor day to day tasks, and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks.” HSE Press Release is here.

Another Work at Height Fatality

A healthcare firm is fined £170,000 and ordered to pay a further £82,145 in prosecution costs on 22 November 2013 for serious safety failings following the death of a worker who fell nearly six metres from scaffolding.

TRU Ltd, which was in charge of the construction site, was prosecuted by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the scaffolding was dangerous.This was due in particular to a lack of guard rails and inadequate decking. In addition, TRU Ltd’s site employees were not trained in safety, there were no risk assessments and there were no method statements.

During a five-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the jury heard that TRU specialises in providing rehabilitation for people with brain injuries, but that it also took on some building projects. The self-employed joiner had been working on the roof trusses for the extension to the house when he fell from the scaffolding. He suffered critical head injuries and died in hospital the following day.

TRU Ltd, which now trades as TRU (Transitional Rehabilitation Unit) Ltd, was found guilty of two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Section 3(1) of the Act states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Another Work at Height Safety Fine

A construction firm and its managing director were fined (21st November) for safety failings after a labourer fell more than four metres through a fragile barn roof, breaking his back on his first day working for the company. As well as fracturing two vertebrae in his lower back, requiring a brace to be worn for two months, he suffered a broken wrist which had to be pinned and a bruised heel. He returned to work after six months but no longer works in construction, and has been left with some restricted movement in his wrist.

Leamington Spa Magistrates Court was told the company and its managing director were aware the roof was fragile and verbally warned employees to be careful, but did not ensure that the job was properly planned or carried out safely.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found equipment provided for accessing and working on the fragile roof was not suitable, and four employees were working unsafely using single scaffold boards and crawl boards without guardrails or harnesses, and at times stepping on the roof itself. No guardrails were in place around the roof perimeter to prevent falls from the edge, and no measures to mitigate the consequences of a fall through the fragile roof were in use, such as fall arrest harnesses, netting, or soft landing systems. In addition, the injured man and another colleague were both working for the firm for the first time that day but neither had been given proper instruction or training for working at height.

HSE’s Press Release is here.

Work at Height Fatality

I posted earlier on Work at Height injuries and company fines.

Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is (a) properly planned; (b) appropriately supervised; and (c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe, . and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment.”

Regulation 6(3) states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”

Now a roofer has fallen to his death from an unsuitable and badly maintained ladder.

Aylesbury Crown Court (November 21st) heard that the self-employed roofer who was sub-contracted to a roofing firm on an ad-hoc basis, was working at the rear of a domestic property to install weatherproof eaves protectors. He accessed the roofline using a two-part extension ladder that was footed by the company director, who was also a close family friend. The exact circumstances of how he came to fall are unclear, but he evidently slipped after failing to maintain a secure contact with the ladder and the building as he tried to work.

Thames Valley Police attended the scene before Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was notified three days later. HSE’s investigation established that the choice of extension ladder was inappropriate, and that a more rigid system, such as a tower scaffold, should have been used instead.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector said: “All work at height has to be properly planned and managed, and there were clear failings with the equipment used by Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd. Even short duration tasks need planning and foresight, and it is evident that had more appropriate equipment been provided then Mr Rowe’s tragic death could have been avoided. We were unable to find a direct link between the state of the ladder and his fall, but I also hope this case underlines the need to ensure that work equipment is properly maintained and fit for purpose.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Work at Height Safety Fines

Work at height carries with it specific and preventable risks of injury from falls. Latest prosecutions for safety failings in work at height control are found as follows:

Here is the Press Release of today’s prosecution result (Britain’s HSE),

Here is the HSE’s Press Release of a different incident yesterday.

Update: here is another (this time it is a fall through a fragile roof).

Update: roofing firm in court.

Update: another fall in court (17th Sept).

Update: another fall results in serious injuries (18th Sept).

Update: another fall results in injuries (11th Oct).

Update: another fine for work-at-height safety failings (22nd Oct).

The latest HSE figures show that 40 workers were killed and almost 3,500 seriously injured following falls in the workplace during 2011/12. More information about safe working at height can be found at

Update: another (5th November).