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Widnes Firm Fined over Employee’s Fall Injuries

Posted by Tracy Seward

A Cheshire worker could have been killed when he fell from the top of a chemical storage tank, a court has heard.

The 44-year-old from Bala, North Wales, had been carrying out maintenance work on the tank at a plant in Widnes when the chemical vapour inside set alight, causing an explosion. The worker, who has asked not to be named, was thrown from the tank and fell around two and a half metres, landing on a metal girder below.

His employer, Hutchinson Technical Services (HTS) Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the incident at its Ditton Road site on 13 May 2010.

Runcorn Magistrates’ Court was told the worker was knocked unconscious when he fell to the ground and suffered burns on his right arm and right leg, as well as bruising to his ribs. He was kept in hospital overnight and was off work for several weeks as a result of his injuries.

The court heard the employee had been allowed to work on top of the tank without any measures in place to prevent him from being injured in a fall.

HSE immediately issued HTS with a Prohibition Notice following the incident, preventing workers from carrying out work on top of tanks without suitable protective equipment.

The company, which services and repairs tanks for the chemical and other industries, arranged for a cage to be fitted to the top of tanks within two days of receiving the notice. It has since introduced the use of other safety equipment such as harnesses.

HTS pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to ensure suitable measures were in place to prevent workers being injured in a fall.

The company, of Fleming Road in Middlesborough, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,588 in prosecution costs on 26 March 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, the investigating inspector at HSE, Lisa Lewis, said:

“The employee’s injuries could have been much worse, and he could have been killed if he’d struck his head when he landed on the girder.

“HTS was able to introduce the use of new equipment within just a few days of the incident happening, that has significantly reduced the chance of workers being injured in a fall.

“This case should act as a warning to other companies whose employees regularly carry out work at height. Taking simple steps could prevent workers from being injured.”

More than 4,000 people suffered a major injury in a fall while at work in Great Britain last year, and 38 lost their lives.

March 2012

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