Watch your step – Falls from height not just an issue for the construction industry



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In 2015/2016 just over a quarter of the 144 fatal injuries reported by the Health and Safety Executive were caused by a fall from height. Due to the inherently dangerous tasks involved it can be a common assumption that falls from height are limited to the construction industry. However, only 18 of these deaths occurred in the construction sector. Many others occurred in agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing.

Evidence so far this year seems to suggest that this trend is continuing and there have been a series of recent prosecutions against companies who are not part of the construction industry. As a result it is important for all businesses, regardless of their sector, to be mindful of the risks posed by falling from height.

Recent Prosecutions in non-construction sectors

The most significant recent example comes from a prosecution against Iceland Supermarkets, which resulted in a £2.5 million fine and an award of £65,000 in costs to Rotherham Council after a contractor fell three metres through a suspended ceiling whilst working on an air conditioning unit. Investigations revealed there had been no barriers in place to prevent falls, and that the working platform itself was limited in size with several tripping hazards present including cables. Further investigations showed that Iceland had not carried out a risk assessment to consider access to the platform for either contractors or its own employees.

Iceland was found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 following a three-week trial held at Sheffield Crown Court in July 2017. Council official Karen Hanson said that “all businesses should be aware of the importance of health and safety – particularly for high-risk activities such as working from heights” and emphasised the need for health and safety considerations to be mindful of third parties such as contractors as well as their own employees.

Additionally, in May this year, Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School of Barnet was fined £2,000.00 having pleaded guilty…