Late last week, Bridge Mills Ltd, owners of an old mill complex off Huddersfield Road, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a 68-year-old male worker fell from a ladder and broke his ankle in 2011.
The Accident at Work happened after the maintenance man, who does not wish to be named, was asked by Bridge Mills Ltd to remove several heat exchange units from the roof space in a disused machine shop. He was working from the ladder, being held by a cleaner, at various heights of around 4 and 5 metres (between 12 and 15 feet) when the ladder was knocked from the cleaner’s hands. The man realised he was falling and jumped clear, rolling over to protect himself as best he could.
Holmfirth firm Bridge Mills Ltd was fined for ‘unacceptable’ health and safety. Following the hearing at Kirklees Magistrates Court, the HSE said the man was lucky not to be more seriously injured or killed.
It is certainly true that a fall from any height can inflict a life-changing injury or even death. Injuries can have devastating effects on families; both financially and emotionally. There are regulations in place that companies should adhere to, namely the Work At Height Regulations 2005. As the HSE spokeswoman pointed out “Working at height without the right equipment, training or systems is wholly unacceptable and extremely dangerous, and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when companies put their workers lives at such risk.”
Indeed, there were several safe methods open to Bridge Mills Ltd for the removal of the heat exchange units including working from an integrated working platform. Instead, the health and safety of its workers was treated in a ‘vague and haphazard manner’.
Magistrates were told that the HSE had found a number of failings at the company. There was no clear responsibility for health and safety within the workplace. Work at height was not planned or organised, so there was no safe system of work in place. The firm had not assessed the risks nor provided the worker with work-at-height training.
The company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,355 court costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. Director of Bridge Mills Ltd, Robert Broadbent, said “The company sincerely regrets the injuries suffered to the worker as a result of the accident on November, 22, 2011. We have fully co-operated with the Health and Safety Executive’s investigation and have undertaken a thorough review of all health and safety procedures throughout the business.”
Comment after the event is all well and good, but this worker would far rather not have been injured, and the cost to any company is not just the fine, but potentially a higher insurance premium caused by a compensation claim, as well as time off sick by the injured worker on account of his injury. All of this could have been avoided.