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  • Writer's pictureRichard Nichols

Fall From Height - Prosecution from HSE

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Worker breaks his back, in 2ft fall from height off of a forklift truck.

The following article reaffirms the fact that the height that a person falls from does not necessarily mean the injuries suffered will be less than if a greater height is involved. This type of incident is covered in the Base Solutions face to face work at height training presentations, with two anecdotes based on personal experience.

1. The author fell three feet from a window ledge rupturing three discs in his spine

resulting in two years off work.

2. An electrician working at T5 Heathrow Airport fell two feet and suffered severe

bruising to one side of his body from his shoulder to his knee, this incident resulted in

seven weeks off work.

A logistics company has been fined £400,000 after a worker broke his back when he fell from a forklift truck.

The injured man was one of two employees who were loading a shipping container at freight forwarders Reliable Shipping Limited, on the Severalls Industrial Estate, Colchester, ready for it to be dispatched on 26 September 2019.

To reach the highest pallets inside the container, the man who was hurt had been lifted up on the forks of the forklift to stack boxes on top of an already wrapped pallet.

He fell approximately two foot and landed on the corner of a pallet on the floor resulting in multiple spinal fractures.

The HSE found that the company involved had no safe system of work for loading and unloading the containers, and it did not have appropriate work-at-height equipment.

The company had a risk assessment for working at height, but it was not suitable nor sufficient and did not correctly assess the working environment or correct control measures.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. (It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.).

The company appealed against a fine of £500,000, which was reduced to £400,000 at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 23 September 2022. The company was ordered to pay £6,336 costs.

In sentencing, District Judge King said that even those who weren’t familiar with health and safety would know that this was an accident waiting to happen and it was only good fortune that the injured person was not paralysed or killed.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Carla Barron, said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments, devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary equipment, information, instruction and training to their workers.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply planning the work and providing the correct control measures and safe working practices.”


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