An Essex construction company has been fined after a self-employed decorator was severely injured in a stairwell fall at a building site in Cambridgeshire. The decorator from Dunstable, fractured several ribs, his left arm and thumb; snapped the tendons on an index finger; cut and bruised his head; cracked two vertebrae; and suffered several collapsed discs as a result of the incident. He was working on the first floor of a block of flats when he fell. He had stopped on a landing area to talk to colleagues who were going down to the ground floor and leant against a wooden guard-rail around the stairwell. It was unable to support him and collapsed, sending him crashing headfirst onto the stairs below.
HSE established that the guard-rail was poorly designed and constructed, and simply wasn’t fit for purpose. The court was told that had it been more robust the incident could have been prevented.
The company was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £4,501 costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Gavin Bull, said:
“The company failed to ensure the guard-rails they provided to prevent falls inside the buildings were suitable when work was being undertaken. There are well established design standards for temporary guard-rails that could have been adopted and put in place.
“Construction work is a high-risk activity and falls account for a large proportion of all deaths and serious injuries. The end result here is that the decorator sustained serious injuries that could have been avoided.”