A construction company has been fined half a million pounds after dangerous working practices were reported during the construction of a high ropes course in Derby.
Employees from Bulgarian firm Walltopia were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by a member of the public who witnessed the firm carrying out work at height from a pallet that was balanced on the raised forks of a telehandler.
A member of the public highlighted the unsafe working practices to Walltopia but despite giving assurances it would address the matter, the employees continued to work in the same manner.
Derby Magistrates’ Court heard that work was taking place on a section of roof, some 11 metres off the ground. No safety measures were in place to prevent the two employees falling from the open edges.
Workers were also climbing from the basket of a cherry picker onto the rooftop rather than using scaffolding for access.
The court fined Walltopia of Letnitsa, Bulgaria, £500,000 and ordered the company to pay costs of £8,013.25 after it pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Almost one in five deaths in construction involve roof work.
The law says all work must be planned so it is carried out safely and proper precautions must be taken.
Falls from flat roof edges can be prevented by simple edge protection arrangements – a secure double guardrail and toeboard around the edge – while sloping roofs also require scaffolding.
HSE Inspector Lee Greatorex said after the hearing: “Using a pallet on a telehandler for planned work at height is an unacceptable means of access. It appears that the company failed to put in place control measures after being alerted about this.”
The inspector says Walltopia had not followed “recognised industry standards” nor did the company alter its working methods after the health and safety breach was brought to its attention.
“Work at height should always be sufficiently planned and managed to protect workers from being exposed to extreme risks from falls from height,” Mr Greatorex continued. “In this case someone could have suffered significant injuries or death”.
Source: Health and Safety Executive