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This article was published on December 23rd, 2015
A water supplier has been fined £400,000 with costs of £41,711 after pleading guilty to breaches of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company has shockingly been at the centre of four previous prosecutions already by HSE; in 1997, 2004, and 2010 and an improvement notice had been served on the company after a fall from a height incident in 2007.
This recent fine came after three of their employees were injured in two separate incidents at its water recycling centres. The first incident occurred when two workers were carrying out maintenance repair work on two submerged pumps. An employee fell from a height after a metal grid he was standing on above a wet well gave way and he fell onto his co-worker who was in the bottom of the well, installing the refurbished pump.
One worker sustained a broken shoulder blade, two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a deep cut to his head. The worker at the bottom of the well was also injured by the falling grid and he sustained a severe cut to his left buttock, and now suffers recurring nightmares after the trauma of the incident.
What is particularly shocking about this case is that the HSE revealed that a supervisor had previously highlighted his concerns about the safety of the grid flooring to the wet well following a earlier inspection 8 months ago but the necessary repairs were not carried out.
To make matter worse, while the HSE was investigating this incident another accident occurred involving a well cover at a different site. A third worker fell three metres into a well after standing on a well cover. The well began to fill with dirty water and he was unable to get out as there were no steps or ladders inside the well. Luckily, another contractor heard his cries and he was rescued before he drowned.
The court heard that although he only sustained minor physical injuries, he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the ordeal and needs treatment due to the ongoing mental stress from the incident.
An HSE Inspector said: “Accidents involving falls from height remain one of the commonest causes of serious injury at work. As the regulator HSE is expected to take appropriate action when those who have control of work at height fail to take the necessary measures to reduce risk from falling.”
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