HSE warns of dangers of working at height after fatal fall at Northampton refurb

Thursday, 4th Sep '08 at 10:13

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging employers to ensure they have adequate safety measures in place to protect staff working at height. This follows an incident at a Northampton warehouse when a refurbishment worker died after falling seven metres from a tower scaffold.

Spanclad Ltd, based in Smethwick in the West Midlands, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £10,000costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Principal contractors for Spanclad, Westminster Building Co Ltd, based in Derby, was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the same act at Northampton Crown Court today. The two companies were prosecuted by HSE following an investigation of the incident.

HSE Inspector Richard Lockwood said:

"This was an entirely preventable incident which led to the death of a local man. Darren Handley, a 36-year-old from Dudley, was killed when he fell from a tower scaffold, which was not the right equipment for the work he was undertaking and was also erected incorrectly. The access to the scaffold was across fragile materials, which presented another significant danger to the worker.

"This tragedy could have easily been avoided if the two companies had properly planned the work to ensure adequate safety measures were in place for people working at height."

On October 25, 2004, Mr Handley was one of four workers employed by Spanclad Ltd to carry out the re-cladding of a warehouse at Scottish Courage Ltd, Lodge Farm Industrial Estate, in Northampton.

Mr Handley was working on a tower scaffold positioned on timber boards, which were placed on top on a fragile cement sheeted canopy in the warehouse loading bay. The top rail of the scaffold was missing and the tower was placed at an angle on a weak support base, causing it to move. Mr Handley fell approximately seven metres from the tower scaffold, through the canopy onto the yard below, suffering fatal injuries.

  1. Sections 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as it reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  2. Section 3 (1) of the Act states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks in their health and safety."
  3. The maximum penalty in the higher court for a breach of these sections of the act is an unlimited fine.
  4. Further information about falls from height is available at HSE's website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/index.htm
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