Contractors will be alive to traditional health & safety risks present during the course of projects. One of those risks is falls from height.
The scale of this risk was emphasised in the 2020 case of Stan England Builders Ltd in which the sentencing Sheriff said: "Falls from height are a significant issue in the construction industry…..falling from height is still one of the biggest causes of major injury to workers in the UK and the most common cause of death in the workplace. Falls are said to continue to be the biggest cause of fatal injury in Britain's workplaces."
Two cases from February 2021 confirm that falls from height continue to occur and that the specialist regulatory authorities across the UK will investigate incidents and prosecute breaches.
First in Scotland, Alex Brewster and Sons, a business that owns and lets properties, was fined after an employee fell from a roof. He sustained serious injuries requiring surgery. The HSE investigation found that the business failed to ensure that the work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was, as far as reasonably practicable, safe. In essence, insufficient measures were in place to prevent the risk of a fall from height. The company pled guilty to breaches of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £4,000 reflecting its turnover. Following the incident, HSE said: "Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country".
Second in England, a roofing business, R4 Industrial Roofing, was fined £165,000 after an employee fell through an industrial roof light sustaining fatal injuries. The business had failed to ensure that the project was carried out with appropriate safety precautions in place.
These recent cases demonstrate that falls from height remain a fundamental risk and point to the need to ensure that work at height policies and procedures are kept under review and fully implemented. It will also be important for contractors across the supply chain to ensure that work carried out at height is planned, supervised and carried out with appropriate safety precautions.
Taking legal advice at an early stage will be one part of an appropriate response. It will also be important to be in a position to demonstrate that appropriate compliance measures were in place to mitigate the well-established risk of falls from height.