There have been a plethora of cases recently where the Health and Safety Executive has successfully prosecuted individuals and companies who have permitted staff and others to suffer injury whilst working at height:
Case 1: a businessman converting a mill was sentenced to just under one year’s imprisonment and his father, who owned the mill, was given a suspended jail sentence, following an incident in which a Lithuanian worker died after falling eight metres. Case note: The prosecution alleged that the defendants had failed to plan the work at height, failed to employ competent contractors and were aware that the work was being carried out by unskilled labour. Court found: There had been a breach of Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Case 2: a roofer was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and a timber supplier was fined over £93,000 after a labourer fatally fell more than eight metres through a fragile roof. Case note: Incorrectly-erected scaffolding, an untied ladder, unsuitable working platform, no covering or guardrail. Court found: Both prosecutions were brought under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The Work at Height Regulations place duties on an employer, and those that contract or control others who work at height. “Work at height” means working in any place where, if precautions are not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.
Wherever possible, work at height should be avoided. Where it is unavoidable the duty holder must comply with section 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations, which provides:
“Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling from a distance liable to cause personal injury”.
The Work at Height Regulations require duty holders to ensure that:
- all work at height is properly planned and organised
- those involved in work at height are competent
- the risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used
- the risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
- the equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.
Where there has been a breach of the Work at Height Regulations the provisions of sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 will also apply. Section 2(1) states “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” Section 3(1) of the 1974 Act states that “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety”.
If you need to know more about how to ensure your business does not contravene the legislation regulating working at height, then please contact 360 Business Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01276 804432