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‘HOMEMADE’ FALL ARREST FAILS THE SAFETY TEST

Contractor prosecuted after compromising safety on roof refurb project

Agricultural contractor Ashton Farms Limited, of Trowbridge, Wiltshire  has been fined after compromising worker safety by using a homemade harness system during a barn renovation project at Manor Farm Grittleton in Chippenham in October 2010.

Chippenham Magistrates heard (15 July) that an HSE Construction Inspector visited the project on 15 October last year and observed two workmen engaged in installation of a outbuilding roof. There was no roof edge protection in place or safety nets to arrest a fall.

The company were using an unvalidated ‘homemade running line’ and harness system, which would not have prevented a fall and which was unlikely to have prevented injury should a fall have occurred.

At a previous HSE inspection on another project the company been issued with a Prohibition Notice (PN) after failing to take all reasonably practicable measures to plan and carry out work at height in a safe, controlled manner.

Defendant ignored advice on standards required

Ashton Farms Limited of Spiers Piece Farm, Steeple Ashton, Trowbridge, Wiltshire pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £8000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,986.

Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Annette Walker commented:

“In addition to serving the earlier Prohibition Notice, HSE also had a meeting with Ashton Farms to ensure there was no margin for misunderstanding of the expected standards in working at height on roofs.

This type of work poses a risk of serious injury and even death, and Ashton Farms could and should have ensured they had suitable protection in place whilst renovating the barn in Chippenham.

In this instance there was no injury, but the company chose to ignore the previous warnings and continued to carry out work in an unsafe manner.”

Comment

This case illustrates a fundamental tenet of construction safety: a safety system that is not thought through is as unsafe as no system at all! A recent incident in which a safety net system saved the lives of two workmen makes the point that when a fall arrest system is used in anger it needs to be effective

In addition, this prosecution shows that HSE will take legal proceeding, in addition to prohibition, especially where the dutyholder has been provided with specific advice on the standards required.

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