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    FAILURE TO CONTROL FALLS RISK ENDS IN COURT

    Firm fined after workers lives threatened by poorly managed risk

    Retro Future 2000 Ltd has been prosecuted after the lives of up to 30 workers were put at risk at two new waterfront apartment blocks in Liverpool. The case arose from a visit by HSE Inspectors to the Kings Dock project on 29 April 2010.

    Major safety concerns were exposed during inspection of a 6-story apartment block where work at height was undertaken without barriers to prevent potentially fatal falls.

    Defeciencies included:

    • open lift shaft;
    • staircase landing with no walls or rails; and
    • unguarded rubbish chute opening on the sixth floor. See photographs.
    Enforcement notices issued at earlier visits

    Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that HSE had issued 4 enforcement notices covering work at height following a previous visit to the site on 22 October 2009. 

    The Manchester based company was found guilty of breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005 Regulation 6(3) and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,981

    Kevin Jones, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

    “This is one of the worst cases I have ever dealt with and Retro Future is extremely lucky that no one was seriously injured. The company was managing a major construction project in Liverpool city centre, but the conditions on the site were appalling.

    There were several instances where Retro Future had failed to do anything to prevent falls, and put lives in danger as a result. We issued four enforcement notices, and offered written advice on managing the risks from falls, following a previous visit.

    Sadly, despite initially making improvements, the company appears to have fallen back into old habits within a few weeks.”

    Comment

    This prosecution indicates that HSE institutes legal proceeding based on inspection findings. Prosecution without an incident or injury is more likely if formal or informal HSE ‘warnings’ have been issued in the recent past. 

    The fines imposed by magistrates in such cases remain low despite the Inspector in this case stating this was “one of the worst cases I have ever dealt with”. Nevertheless, the offence will be available for prospective clients to view on the HSE Enforcement database for the next 5 years.

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