The problem of falls from height within the workplace has reared its head once more, after a building company based in Leicestershire was punished for an incident in which one of its employees took a tumble.
WJ Edge & Sons Builders was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the case, which occurred in January. The unnamed worker was constructing the second floor of a new house that the firm was responsible for at the time of the fall.
He plummeted about five metres when the board he was standing on gave way as a result of it being loaded with concrete blocks. Once he hit the ground below, he was struck by a wooden board and the concrete blocks.
The man suffered a fractured elbow and nose and was unable to return to work for about six weeks.
"This could have been a far more serious incident had the lower joists not helped to break the worker's fall to the concrete below. He was also fortunate that a wooden board that landed on top of him provided a degree of protection from the falling concrete blocks," explained HSE inspector Martin Waring.
He went on to remark that the company could have prevented the floor being accessed had it planned the work adequately. Builders were urged to manage the construction process extremely closely and bosses should inspect floor sections to ensure they are strong enough before they are worked on.
WJ Edge & Sons Builders was fined £7,000 for its role in the accident and subsequent fall from height, while it must also pay costs of £5,000. It pleaded guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
The case may serve as a useful reminder to companies across the UK that they must protect their staff against falls from height. Such incidents remain a huge problem, with more than 4,000 major injuries and 38 deaths caused by this type of accident in 2010-11.