Recent prosecutions – worker dies after fall from shipping container

A Gateshead transport and haulage company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,322 following a fatal fall from height incident.

An employee was working inside an open-topped transport shipping container on the back of a large goods road vehicle. The container’s rear doors were open, preparing access for an overhead crane and the removal of a shipment of steel girders. While unloading goods, the worker fell approximately 1.5 metres from the rear of the container and died as a result of his injuries.

An HSE investigation found that the employer had general risk assessments and safe working method statements in place. However, the regulator highlighted the absence of a suitable risk assessment for the specific work activity. They also noted that the company had failed to implement simple controls to prevent a fall from the container.

The HSE inspector said: ‘A worker died from injuries sustained in this incident. His death could have very easily been avoided had the company recognised the risk of a fall from the container when unloading the steel and put in place simple and easily available controls.’

Preventing falls from height in your yard

Work at height is the biggest workplace killer, accounting for 25% of all fatal injuries recorded in the UK during 2019/20. Of the 693,000 non-fatal injuries, 8%(55,440) were falls from height – and the majority of serious injuries are caused by falls from less than two metres. 

Within a merchant environment, you should always ensure a suitable and sufficient work at height risk assessment has taken place. The assessment should focus on preventing work from height altogether, aiming for as much work as possible to be conducted from the ground.

Where this isn’t feasible, use suitable, stable equipment to minimise falling risks. While ladders and scaffolds might spring to mind, they’re often misused and can carry considerable H&S hazards. Safer alternatives include access platforms, scissor lifts and mobile steps.

Your risk assessment should also ensure workers:

·        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

·        understand emergency evacuation and rescue procedures

Work at height is an area of health and safety where you should always stop and think. Analyse where work at height happens across your branch – from ladders and mezzanines to vehicle access – and take steps to remove and reduce hazards. Are surfaces sturdy and slip-free? Is there adequate lighting and space to move? Have staff been trained on safe working practices?

A few easy-to-implement controls can protect your team and prevent the high cost of a fall in your workplace.

Talk to Opus

We’ve helped hundreds of builders merchants minimise accident risks and avoid legal action. Talk to us about safe work at height methods in your business on or 0330 043 4015.

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