Last updated: 24.09.11

Fall from height leads to £10,000 fine for Aberdeen firm

The importance of online health and safety training has been illustrated after a company was slapped with a fine following the serious injury of a worker who fell from a scaffolding tower.

Aberdeen electrical and refrigeration services company Spark's Mechanical Services was fined £10,000 after Charles Howie fell 2.6 metres from a tower at a fish processing factory in Fraserburgh last October.

Mr Howie was left with five fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, and was unable to return to his normal working duties for five months after the incident.

He had been removing two ceiling-mounted refrigeration units at the facility that were attached by eight bolts, half of which had been removed. Mr Howie continued to work on the units before a forklift truck was put in place to support them.

Investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that at least one of the four remaining bolts broke while he was working on the refrigerators, causing them to fall and strike the scaffolding tower, throwing Mr Howie to the floor.

Speaking after the hearing at Peterhead Sheriff Court, HSE inspector John Radcliffe said the company relied on custom and practice to devise its safe systems of work, rather than implementing methods that are proven to be effective.

As a result, online health and safety training could have helped the incident to be avoided.

"A safe system of work might have included the use of a forklift truck as a support, but it needed to have been underneath the panel before any bolts were removed," Mr Radcliffe explained.

"It is also crucial that guardrails are always in place around the working platforms of scaffolds to avoid potential falls, often with catastrophic consequences."

HSE advises that guardrails, working platforms and other methods to prevent falls should be prioritised over nets and airbags, which can only affect the consequences of an incident.