HM Insights

Construction company fined £100,000 after worker killed in preventable incident

A recent decision highlights the need for employers to ensure that they have stringent Health and Safety measures in place to protect them and their workforce. An employer was fined £100,000 following the death of one of their employees who fell from the roof of an agricultural building.

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On 11 May 2016, a 45-year-old employee of a construction company was fatally injured whilst undertaking duties in the course of his employment. The employee was installing roof sheets on an agricultural building before falling from the roof to his death. The roof was over six metres high.

Plymouth Magistrates Court fined the employer £100,000 for breaching Regulation 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Health and Safety Investigation

Following the accident at work, an investigation was undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The investigation concluded that the construction company had failed in a number of duties of care it owed to employees.

These were:

  • Failure to provide suitable edge protection on the roof;
  • Failure to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks was carried out and implemented;
  • Failure to ensure that those working on the building and supervising the work had received adequate training.

The HSE found that the incident and employees death could have been prevented if suitable edge protection had been installed.

The HSE Inspector states that "falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.”

Governing law

Under Regulation 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, an employer owes a general duty to "ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees". The construction company pled guilty to breaching this provision. The employer was fined £100,000 and in addition to the fine the company was ordered to pay costs of £11,060.40.

Lessons to be learned

The failures of the construction company resulted in the death of an employee. The incident could have been easily preventable had suitable edge protection and training been put in place. Employers need been aware of their legal obligations to their workforce and relevant HSE guidance.

In June 2017 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released its annual figures for work-related fatalities revealing that in the UK 137 workers were fatally injured between April 2016 and March 2017. The construction industry accounted for the largest proportion of workplace deaths. It is imperative that companies take all necessary precautions to ensure that all workers in Scotland and in the UK are kept safe.

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