Recent prosecutions – plant hire company fined for poor work at height and welfare practices

A plant hire company has been hit with penalties in excess of £66,000 for providing substandard welfare facilities and putting workers at risk of falls from height.  

During roof construction on the company’s new aggregate recycling facility, employees were made to carry out cladding activities on an unguarded edge, placing them in danger of a 30ft fall. An HSE investigation revealed workers were left unsupervised by site management and had no method statement to follow when accessing the roof or safety controls to prevent a fall from height.  

HSE findings also showed minimum required welfare provision – including handwashing facilities at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – were unavailable on site. To use the toilet, workers had to make a five-minute drive along an unadopted roadway to the company’s head office.  

Following the hearing, the HSE inspector said: ‘Had a worker fallen off the roof edge, it could have been fatal. Employers should ensure that workers are not left to do high-risk roof work without supervision. 

‘Work at height and roof work should only be carried out by trained workers, who are being robustly monitored, following proper planning, risk assessment and using suitable equipment. The minimum standards for welfare must also be met.’ 

Preventing falls across your builders merchant  

Work at height accounted for 25% of all fatal injuries recorded in the UK during 2019/20. There were also 55,440 non-fatal falls in the same period, the majority causing serious injuries from falls of less than two metres. 

Suitable and sufficient work at height risk assessments help you avoid accidents and fatalities at your builders merchant. Your primary focus should be on eliminating the need to work from height. Instead, explore ways for work to be carried out from ground level.

If work at height is unavoidable, ensure your team is equipped with stable, purpose-built equipment to reduce fall risks. Evaluate your branch in detail, reviewing where work at height happens and the unique risks within each area. This might include racking, mezzanines, retail shelving spaces and accessing vehicles. Also look for environmental factors that could contribute to an incident while working at height, such as slippery surfaces, poor lighting and space restrictions.

Your risk assessment should also make sure your employees:

  • can get safely to and from where they work at height
  • are not overloaded or overreaching when working at height
  • are protected from falling objects
  • take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
  • are trained on equipment use and safe working practices

Get free advice from an Opus specialist

For guidance on fall prevention and branch-wide risk reduction, speak to the Opus experts. We’ll help you zero in on compliance concerns and protect your team from work at height hazards.

Get in touch at or 0330 043 4015.