£965k fines after worker falls from height

In the first of our monthly Health & Safety ‘in the news’ series, we’ll be taking a look at a costly fall from height accident that amounted to fines of £965,000.

What happened?

Due to lack of proper procedures and safeguards in place, Paul Welstead, a painter, fell around 10 feet through a waiting room ceiling in Croydon.

Welstead, who was 31-years-old at the time of the accident, incurred severe ligament damage, and hasn’t been able to return to his job as an industrial painter since the accident – which happened on January 7th, 2018.

Although Welstead, who was a contractor, was given a site induction when he first arrived at the job on December 18th, 2017, he wasn’t briefed on the risk assessment. The risk assessment, unbeknown to Welstead, specified that workers should wear full body harnesses and that the waiting room below should be locked.

When he returned to work on January 7th after the festive break, he wasn’t given another safety briefing and, crucially, wasn’t warned about the fragile roofs. Subsequently, he fell through the unguarded ceiling and into the waiting room that morning.

During prosecution, BAM Nuttall and DRH – both companies involved – were fined a grand total of £965,000 after admitting charges under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Commentary

Johnny Schute, Deputy Director of Policy, Strategy and Planning, said: “The fines handed out send a powerful message to the industry that the safety of workers on the railways is absolutely paramount, and proper risk assessments and briefings must be carried out and followed.”

Lessons to be learned

Lee Mockridge, Health & Safety Development Manager at Citation, said: “The most unnerving issue around this situation is the fact that it could’ve been avoided so easily, simply through proactive communication.

“Lots of industries still have a Health & Safety culture whereby safety is considered paramount by some, but this mindset isn’t always evident across all areas of the business. As a result, people like Paul are unfortunately left suffering as a direct backlash of information not being appropriately cascaded through all the right channels – like first line management and Paul himself.

“This accident just goes to prove that Health & Safety isn’t a ‘stop-start’ exercise that can be considered as annual or ‘when there’s time’. It should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind throughout all processes, implemented and communicated proactively, and with those at risk always being the priority.”

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