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FLAWED FALL ARREST SYSTEM PROVED TO BE FATAL ERROR

Hay bale ‘fall arrest system’ failed to protect workman during roofing project

Blue Anchor Leisure Ltd, of Chapel St Leonards, has ordered to pay almost £20k in fines and prosecution costs after after a worker fell to his death in a hay barn near Doncaster.

The company pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Doncaster Magistrates Court today on 30 September 2010.

Clifford Hartley, 59, from Skegness, was carrying out roofwork on a fire-damaged barn with a colleague when the incident occurred on 4 September 2008.

Position of bales failed to prevent injury from fall

Hay bales had been positioned inside the barn to provide a working platform and to act as a form of fall arrest. However, when Mr Hartley fell from the roof he missed the bales and landed on the concrete floor sustaining fatal head injuries.

The hay bales were only stacked to roof level in parts and didn’t extend far enough inside the barn to provide complete protection.

After the hearing HSE inspector Medani Close said:

“This is a tragic death that could easily have been avoided had Mr Hartley’s employer taken more time to assess the potential risks to him and his co-worker, and done more to avoid them.

The bales of hay in the barn could have provided an adequate safety system, however, the way they were situated left little room for error and they clearly weren’t fit for purpose. That responsibility and subsequent failing ultimately rests with Blue Anchor Leisure Ltd.

Too many lives are shattered as a result of falls from height at work, and I hope today’s prosecution serves to remind all employers that proper precautions must be taken at all times.”

Comment

The lessons from this tragic case are two-fold: (a) ‘unusual’ safety precautions are perfectly acceptable if they achieve the desired objective and (b) whatever system of precautions is chosen it is vital to follow through on the detail.

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