The issue of building site safety is never far from the spotlight, with the Health and Safety Executive frequently running initiatives designed to highlight the risks that can occur in this type of work, and how these risks can be best managed.
However, despite these best efforts, too many employers continue to ignore the advice and examples of best practice available, and as a result workers continue to suffer serious or life-threatening injuries at work.
In one recent example a Cardiff-based worker was lucky to escape with his life after falling seven metres from a roof and breaking his back.
The 25-year-old was helping a colleague to waterproof the roof on a new three-story house when he fell through an unprotected hole and landed on a concrete slab on the ground floor. He suffered spinal injuries, needed significant rehabilitation and was unable to work for more than a year after the incident.
When the HSE investigated, it found that the building contractor had failed to properly plan the work, and hadn’t put sufficient measures in place to minimise the risk of workers falling through the roof.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,137 in costs.
In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Bodfan Jenkins, said: “This was an accident waiting to happen and in the circumstances caused serious injuries. The lack of a risk assessment and supervision were the underlying causes.”
HSE Inspector Liam Osborne, added:
“Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and the risks are well known in the construction industry. It is crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures are put in place to protect staff from the dangers involved.”
In a separate incident in London, a worker suffered a horrific list of injuries when the temporary platform he was standing on collapsed, causing him to fall ten metres and land on a concrete staircase.
The 32-year-old worker was helping two other colleagues to erect a temporary work platform inside a concrete shaft to house a stairwell within a building under construction. The platform was being raised by a crane that used four lifting chains. An inadvertent mistake by the foreman meant that the crane operator was told to take the chains away while one of them was still attached to the platform. As a result, the platform was lifted up by only one corner and broke apart.
The worker’s two colleagues managed to jump to safety but he fell into the shaft below and suffered a shattered right elbow, broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis and ribs, and internal organ damage.
He had to undergo extensive treatment and physiotherapy, and has been left with limited movement in his right arm because of the elbow injury. He is no longer able to work in construction.
The HSE investigation discovered that the principal contractor on the site had not properly managed the risks involved in the work, and had also failed to ensure that their subcontractors had developed and implemented safe systems of work.
It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,386 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
The company subcontracted for the construction of the reinforced concrete frame of the building was also prosecuted over the collapse. It was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £22,193 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
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