Falls from height can ruin the day of any business

Industry news roundup: week ended 11 Mar 2013:

For some reason it seems like the news has just been positively thick with stories about objects and even people falling from height and causing trouble lately.

For what it’s worth, falls from height are some of the most dangerous and damaging types of work accidents out there, and the personal injury claims that emerge from them can be crippling – to say  nothing of the types of fees that a firm can be slapped with by the Health & Safety Executive. In fact it doesn’t even have to be your own employee that falls in order to cause damage as a Portsmouth-based construction company learned recently after a bit of falling masonry landed square on a passer-by, injuring him quite badly.

The injured man, unidentified except for his age of twenty nine years, had simply been walking along the High Street in Camberley when the debris fell off the building after it came dislodged during refurbishment. He was struck on the shoulder and caused bruises and cuts and led to muscle spasms after the fact, and once the HSE caught wind of the incident they more or less had a field day, dragging Majestic Construction Ltd for causing the incident.

Majestic Construction was found to have neglected to re-position barriers on the ground to keep up with work occurring up near the roof of the building, which exposed pedestrians to the risk of falling debris. The firm ended up shouldering the economic burden of an £8,000 fine, not to mention the surety of a nice, big personal injury compensation claim – I know if I was the one who got struck in the shoulder by a bit of falling building, I would absolutely sue the pants off that construction firm!

Of course, it’s not all just injured bystanders sometimes. It’s unfortunate but sometimes a firm’s employee will come plummeting down through a collapsed roof or rickety scaffold, and when that happens it’s usually much more serious: in this case, the story of an engineer who fell from a food company’s cooling unit cracked his skull open in a spectacular fall is what I’m talking about.

The forty nine year old man, whose name has also been withheld from the public, had been working to investigate a data logger that had developed a fault at the Watton-based Cranswick Country Foods Ltd. The engineer had used a free standing ladder to gain access to the cooling unit, but he came tumbling down nearly three metres to the very hard ground below him after the ladder slipped as he was reaching to retrieve one of his tools, leading to a four day stay in hospital to help repair his skull fracture.

Worse yet was that the poor man is left with a permanent ringing in his right ear due to the fact that he damaged one of the tiny bones in his right ear. All told the man missed around a month of work and has yet to return to full working hours.

More work accident claims this week as HSE prosecutes 2 firms

Industry news roundup: week ended 10th Sept 2012:

It’s been another bad week for both manufacturing workers and their employers, as two instances of personal injury at work bring massive fines and legal fees to bear on two different companies.

First up, we have a thirty six year old man who lost three of his fingers in an accident involving a forklift truck and a sheet of metal. The man, whose name has not been made known to the press, had been employed by Lancashire engineering firm PRF Engineering, working on manufacturing bicycles and supermarket trolley shelters, at the time of the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident, discovering that the man lost his fingers because of the unsafe methods used by his employers in regards to how the metal sheet was being transported. The HSE took PRF Engineering to Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court for health and safety violations, describing to the court how the injured man was told to place the three metre wide metal sheet down across the forks of the forklift truck and then to stand upon one of the forks while a colleage stood on the other one, balancing it precariously, only to lose the fingers when they slipped within the forklift mechanism as the sheet was being lowered into place.

Lucky for the worker, hospital staff were able to re-attach the missing digits, though it will be some time until he has completely healed. Unfortunately for PRF Engineering, the Skelmersdale-based manufacturer admitted to breaching health and safety violations, earning a £6,000 fine – and more than £5,000 in legal fees as well!

Sometimes you don’t need a piece of incredibly expensive equipment to hurt yourself at work. While crush injuries are quite common, falls from height are doubly so as experienced by Mark Lambton, a fifty year old roof maintenance worker who took a nearly seven metre tumble from the roof of a Darlington domestic residence and suffering life-changing injuries as a result.

J Wilson Home Improvements, a local contractor, had hired Mr Lambton to aid in carrying out roof maintenance to the property to clear the roof of debris. However, the man fell when attempting to scale the gable end of the house by using a set of ladders that had been placed there for that purpose; instead he fell and injured himself so severely that he may have suffered enough brain damage to leave him in a permanent vegetative state.

The HSE went positively wild upon discovering the incident, investigating the accident site and discovering that the work was not being carried out safely and that there had been no safety harness or guarding fitted to prevent falls from the roof. J Wilson Home Improvements’ eponymous owner, James Wilson, was slapped with a £12,000 fine by the local Magistrates’ court after the HSE prosecuted him, throwing in an additional £3,000 in court costs and legal fees for good measure.

Stonemason asking for £200k after work accident

One stonemason is looking for in excess of £200,000 in personal injury compensation after he was severely injured in an accident at work, it was recently reported.

41 year old Malcolm Hutcheon had been working on historic Kildrummy Castle in January of 2009 on behalf of Historic Scotland, but suffered severe injuries when he tumbled into the historic ruin’s ancient moat, work accident claim experts say.  Mr Hutcheon had been working with three other experts in clearing away moss from the ruins when the temporary bridge under his feet gave way, causing him to plummet approximately three metres into the dry moat.

Mr Hutcheon recently filed a compensation claim at Edinburgh’s Court of Session, claiming that his injuries were so severe that he had been left in need of a surgical procedure in order to treat the damage, even after two years had passed since the incident had initially occurred.  One of the top stonemasons in Scotland prior to the accident, Mr Hutcheon now asserts in his accident claim that his ability to undertake work has been diminished quite severely, leaving him quite disadvantaged when it comes to performing on the job.

The 41 year old claims that he is in constant pain and cannot walk without a pronounced limp.  The worst experiences he has are on rough terrain, where he finds walking to be quite a struggle; walking long distances is also painful and tiring, Mr Hutcheon also reported.

Historic Scotland has declined to comment on the ongoing legal matter.

Work accident leaves joiner paralysed, parish council fined

An accident at work has left one joiner paralysed and the parish council he had been working for with both a serious fine and the responsibility to pay the injured man personal injury compensation, it was recently reported.

The self-employed joiner, whose has gone unnamed so far, had been part of a team working at South Kensington’s St Paul’s Church, where the building was being fitted with an adjustable floor at the time of the incident.  However, the man suffered a fall from height as the balcony railing he had been leaning upon dropped under his weight, sending him plummeting three metres to the floor below and causing a broken shoulder, several broken ribs, a broken back, and spinal injuries that have made it impossible for him to move below his waist.

Last April, the Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Holy Trinity Brompton parish council at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where the council admitted to being responsible for the accident by failing to place a temporary high barrier on the balcony to eliminate the possibility of any falls from height, earning th council a fine of £5,000.  There was such a barrier in place shortly before the incident occurred, but after complaints were made about how difficult it was to move materials on the worksite it was removed.

The parish council will also be providing damages to the unnamed joiner for his life-changing injuries, according to an article in the Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle newspaper, though no further information has been made available as to how much compensation the man will receive.

HSE prosecutes dental practise in Yorkshire for work injury

The Health and Safety Executive is often involved in personal injury compensation cases against employers who may have erred in keeping their workers safe, such as a recent incident involving the receptionist of a dental practice located in Yorkshire falling through the building’s skylight and suffering serious harm.

Catherine Scarborough, the forty year old receptionist, had been eating lunch with a colleague on the roof of Firvale Dental Practice’s single storey extension in Sheffield.  However the domed sky-light on the roof was unable to hold Ms Scarborough’s weight when she sat down upon it, giving way beneath her and sending her falling nearly three metres and causing knee, shoulder, back, and neck injuries as when she hit the ground below, necessitating hospital treatment.

The HSE investigated the incident, sending out inspectors to the location and discovering that there were several faults in regards to the dental practice’s roof.  Investigators say that there was no sort of protection st in place to prevent anyone from falling from the edge of the roof and that it was all too easily accessible to employees, even though there had been previous warnings made that there was a potentially dangerous situation due to the fragility of the roof light.

The HSE brought charges against the operators of the dental practice, Integrated Dental Holdings, at a hearing in Sheffield Crown Court.  The Kearsley, Bolton-based firm was found guilty of breaching health and safety violations, and the court fined the company £18,500 for the role it played in Ms Scarborough’s injuries.

Falls from height are all too common when it comes to work accident claims made by employees injured on the job, HSE inspectors said in the wake of the hearing.