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Slips, trips and falls in the workplace

A five-metre fall left a construction worker with injuries so serious, it may well have ended his career. Following the prosecution of his employers for the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning companies to ensure that they have safe systems in place for working at height.

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A five-metre fall left a construction worker with injuries so serious, it may well have ended his career. Following the prosecution of his employers for the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning companies to ensure that they have safe systems in place for working at height. The carpenter fell from an extension ladder in the autumn of 2006 whilst he was carrying a 8ft x 4ft piece of chipboard weighing approximately 25kg. He suffered a severely broken ankle, broken wrist, and facial injuries where the wood hit him after he fell. The employer pleaded guilty at magistrates court in spring 2008 to a charge under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,600 by Crown Court. Speaking after the hearing, the HSE inspector said: "The company did not have a safe and suitable method of getting materials from ground level up to the loft space where they were working. "Slips, trips and falls can be viewed as being minor, funny accidents but the effects are not. It can lead to major injuries, a lifetime of disability and, in worst cases, fatalities. "Our investigation showed that the company had previous advice from HSE, but did not heed it on this occasion. There was a systematic failure to provide safe working practices in this particular area." HSE is currently running its 'Shattered Lives' campaign, to highlight the devastating consequences of slips, trips and falls in the workplace. Construction building and plant maintenance sectors: 23 people died last year from falling Every week one person dies from a slip, trip or fall in the workplace and just under half of these are in the construction, building and plant maintenance industries Of the almost 11,000 injuries reported to the HSE last year from slips, trips and falls nearly half (46%) of these were from the construction, building and plant maintenance industries Last year, slips, trips and falls in the construction, building and plant maintenance industry cost society £139m Food industries, manufacturing and retail: Similarly debilitating injuries can result from falls on a level surface Last year some 1,863 people, working in the food manufacturing and food retail industries and in catering and hospitality industry, were seriously injured resulting from slips, trips and falls reported to the HSE. It is calculated that in the catering and hospitality industry, slips and trips at work cost society £31m last year. All employers: All employers and employees need to be mindful of the need to establish a safe system of work following on from an appropriate risk assessment that identifies: Hazards Who might be harmed and how What is currently being done to deal with the hazard The residual risk rating Any additional actions that may be needed to minimise the risk further; along with a proposed time scale The person(s) responsible for implementing actions Safe systems of work: Once established, all employees should be given appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to follow the safe system of work" so as not to put themselves or others at risk of injury from the work that is to be carried out. In light of experience and use, all risk assessments should be subject to periodic review.

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