Advice on work at height from HSE and company advisers not followed
Beck Interiors Ltd has been prosecuted for safety failings after a workman fell from an unguarded edge and plunged over four storeys on a major project to renovate the historic Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, London. The 35-year-old man fractured his left leg and several bones in his foot in the incident on 5 March 2012.
The fall was ‘two-staged’. He fell from an unguarded edge above a plant room and then through a riser duct for an air-conditioning system, where he fell a further four storeys. The total distance was more than 14 metres. The metal sheeting of the bottom of the duct appears to have partially cushioned the impact and may have saved his life.
Westminster Magistrates heard (2 October) that the injured contractor was in a loft overlooking the plant room after taking an alternative route from the roof areas of the building.
There was no edge protection in the loft to prevent a fall, and the riser duct for the air-conditioning was exposed because a sturdy cover had been removed, leaving a plastic sheet to keep out dust. The plastic offered little resistance as he plunged straight through the cover.
The District Judge also heard that Beck Interiors had received written advice on improving the management of work at height from HSE officials and independent safety advisors following earlier visits to this anf other company projects.
Proactive management required
Beck Interiors Ltd of Chessington, was fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay £13,365 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
“This was a serious incident that could have ended in tragedy. It is astonishing that the worker plunged so far and escaped more serious harm, and he is incredibly fortunate that the metal duct broke his fall.
This case highlights the need for principal contractors to proactively manage work at height risks, and to take appropriate action to prevent or mitigate falls.
The company expressed regret, but asserted that the injured person should not have been in the loft area. However the fact is that others were also accessing the loft, and the risk of falling should have been adequately controlled.”