Dundee firms fined after worker suffers severe injuries in fall from height

Three Dundee firms have been fined after a worker suffered severe injuries following a work-related fall from height.

The dangers of working at height have once again been highlighted by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into an accident at work in Dundee.

Three firms were prosecuted by the HSE and fined a total of GBP 336,000 after a worker fell six and a half metres through a roof light onto a concrete floor at Dundee Cold Stores Ltd, Kingsway West, Dundee.

Dundee Sheriff’s Court heard that Christopher Carson, who was 23 at the time of the incident in 2008, fell from a roof and suffered severe injuries.

The court heard that Mr Carson competed as a floor gymnast at national level and was also a coach in the sport, but as his day job he was working as an electrician’s labourer for Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd.

His employers had secured a contract from Electroguard Security Systems to fit a lighting system as part of a large project at Dundee Cold Stores Ltd.

Mr Carson was attaching cables to the wall of the building in order to install the system, but one of the cables he needed was on the roof of the building.

In order to complete the task, he used a mobile platform to get to the roof level and then walked across the factory roof to retrieve it. As he returned to the mobile platform he stood on a roof light and fell through it, striking machinery in the factory, before landing on the concrete floor.

As a result of the fall he suffered a number of fractures to his back as well as fractures and a dislocation of his left shoulder. He also suffered a puncture wound to his lower back from a tool that was in his pocket when he fell.

Mr Carson required surgery to reattach three tendons to his shoulder and still suffers from chronic pain in his back and shoulder, which requires physiotherapy.

Investigators at the HSE found that Dundee Cold Stores Ltd had not asked either Electroguard Security Systems or Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd for a written risk assessment for the work they were tasked with.

It was revealed in court that Electroguard had carried out a site risk assessment for working at height, but that this was not specific to the job at Dundee Cold Stores.

The investigation also revealed that Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd had not given Mr Carson any training or information that would have helped him identify that the roof could be fragile.

Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd was fined GBP 66,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Electroguard Security Systems received a GBP 135,000 fine and Dundee Cold Stores Ltd were issued a fine of the same amount after both pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE inspector Harry Bottesch said Mr Carson suffered significant injuries as his employer allowed him to carry out work unsupervised and without clear information and instructions.

“Where roof lights are present, it should be assumed that the area is fragile to walk on. If these three companies had thought about the obvious risks involved, and planned the work properly then Mr Carson’s injuries – and the impact they have had on his life ever since – could have been avoided,” he commented.

HSE figures recently revealed that in 2010/11, 13 people in Britain died as a result of falls from height and there were more than 760 serious injuries.

Posted by Trevor Baker

Dundee firms fined after worker suffers severe injuries in fall from height

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