Construction firm fined after lift shaft fall

A Liverpool construction company pleaded guilty to failing to implement safe systems for working at height despite repeated warnings from the Health and Safety Executive.

J&D Property Services Limited of Breck Road, Liverpool was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (for which it was fined £12,000), and regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (for which it was fined £3,000), at Liverpool Magistrates Court last week.

The prosecution follows HSE's investigation of an incident on 28 July 2006 at a construction site at 142-148 London Road, Liverpool. A 22-year-old concrete layer employed by subcontractors R&J Concrete Flooring Limited was laying a concrete floor, when he fell four metres through a hole into the well of a lift shaft which had not been made safe. The investigation found that the lift shaft was not covered securely and the edges were inadequately protected.

HSE construction inspector, Sarah Wadham, said: "HSE subsequently served a Prohibition Notice on J&D Property Services Limited requiring the company to put in place edge protection. On a further site visit on 7 September 2006 a second Prohibition Notice was served requiring the company to stop work until measures had been taken to prevent a fall.

"J&D Property Services Limited placed its employees at risk by not taking reasonable precautions to prevent accidents while working at height. The company failed to manage the site properly, sent an unsupervised apprentice to carry out work to protect the voids and exposed many workers to risks from falling through a lift shaft opening which was inadequately protected.

"The boarding that had been put in place was more dangerous than the opening itself, because it provided a false sense of security to those who worked nearby. When the injured person stepped on the boarding it collapsed under him, and he fell through the opening to the ground below. He was seriously injured and lucky not to have been killed.

"Falls from height remain the most common cause of deaths in the workplace. Latest figures show that 45 people died from a fall from height at work in 2006/07, with 3,750 suffering major injury. More than half of such deaths occur in construction. Companies involved in building, refurbishment or maintenance must ensure that the work is planned properly and sensible measures taken so that workers are not exposed to risk."

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