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Firm fined after cleaner is injured in fall

10 January 2014

A Hertfordshire firm has been fined after a worker injured his knee during unsafe work to clean high level light fittings.

The 22-year-old from Walthamstow, who does not want to be named, was unable to return to his normal duties for two months as a result of the incident at Kemlows Die Casting Products Ltd, in Charlton Mead Lane, Hoddesdon, on 31 July 2012.

The company was prosecuted on 8 January 2014 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious concerns with the chosen system of work for the cleaning.

Hertford Magistrates’ Court was told that workers accessed the light fittings using a goods stillage, a cage without fork channels, which is not designed to carry people. The goods stillage was raised into position by a fork lift truck.

Two to three hours into the job, the stillage had become so unstable that it fell with the worker inside. The cage landed three feet below on the concrete floor, injuring the worker who was still in it. HSE’s investigation found that nothing had been used to secure the stillage to the fork lift truck.

The court heard that Kemlows had adopted this system of working at heights of above three metres on a regular basis for annual summer shutdown tasks since at least 2005. The company also used a similar system to carry out other maintenance activities, such as fitting pipework.

Kemlows Die Casting Products Ltd, of Yeomans Court, Ware Road, Hertford, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £3,500 costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Peter Burns said: "This incident should never have happened. The company was using a totally inappropriate system of work for the task, which put various employees at risk of serious injury or even death from falling from height over a number of years.

"At the highest point the stillage was lifted around three metres from the ground and the worker is fortunate not to have been more seriously injured.

"The company had more than enough time to hire suitable lifting equipment, such as a mobile elevated work platform. There is no excuse not to use the right equipment and systems of work to do the job, and ensure there are adequate measures to prevent workers from falling from heights likely to cause injury.”

More information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/