A construction firm in Wales has been fined thousands of pounds after a worker fell head first down a lift excavation.
Stephen Harrison fell into the basement of a lift pit that was under construction, while employed by Jehu Project Services Ltd as a specialist drilling contractor.
Mr Harrison was working on a tower scaffold on a site to refurbish a 73-bed care home.
After stepping onto a loose concrete block, the worker lost his footing and fell backwards into a skip, landing on his head among building debris.
He spent 18 days in hospital recovering from shattered vertebrae, a punctured lung and five broken ribs.
Mr Harrison was fortunately not paralysed in the incident, however, his injuries have been determined to be “life-changing” and as a result he will not be returning to work.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Jehu had undertaken some safety precautions which were “incompatible”.
The firm had initially installed a system of lightweight barriers to protect against falls and had positioned bean bags at the base of the hole.
However, the measures were determined to conflict with the required work and were subsequently removed, Newport Crown Court heard.
Numerous management failings were identified at the site, including a lack of effective site management and supervision.
Obvious working at height risks were not considered as there was no Temporary Works Management System in place, which could have mitigated the risks of falling, the court was told.
Firms “must understand risks of working at height”
Jehu Project Services Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, Regulation 13(1) and Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 6(3) and was fined £143,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,029.30.
The HSE had issued Jehu with numerous warnings, HSE inspector Liam Osborne told the court.
As well as warnings about working at height, the HSE had also issued cautions about the planning and supervision of Jehu’s construction sites.
He added: “It is crucial that construction firms properly think through the risks involved before starting work, they then need to ensure there is a workable plan to iron out or manage the resultant dangers.
“There is a clear hierarchy for managing work at height risks, site managers need to prevent it if possible and then provide suitable fixed barriers. Lower-order measures, such as soft-landing systems or the use of harnesses should only be selected as a last resort and if it is safe and appropriate to do so”.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: September 7, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown