HSE slates contractor's 'poorly supervised and inadequately trained system of harnessing'

Bouygyes UK has been fined £18,000 plus costs after a worker fell more than 5m while working on the construction of a school in October 2007.

The incident occurred when a carpenter on site was trying to tighten concrete shutters to allow floor concrete to be cast. In order to fix the shutters and brackets, it was necessary to lean out beyond the area protected by the guardrails. This resulted in the man falling over 5m to a platform below.

The victim suffered fractured ribs and collarbone, air and blood in the chest cavity and a dislocated thumb. He was forced to remain in hospital for six days and was unable to work for over six months.

Bouygues was fined £18,000 with costs of nearly £3,000 after pleading guilty to section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm was also ordered to pay the worker £5,000 compensation.

The man was taken to hospital with fractured ribs and collarbone, air and blood in the chest cavity and a dislocated thumb

An investigation by the by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there were no appropriate points identified in the area where the carpenter had been working that could have been used as an anchor point with the type of lanyard provided.

None of the workers in the slab team appeared to have been trained in how to rescue a person suspended in a harness should they have fallen while clipped on.

HSE inspector Dominic Elliss said: "A carpenter has sustained life-changing injuries which could easily have proved fatal, because the principal contractor in charge of the site failed to plan the work properly.

"This case clearly demonstrates the importance of following the hierarchy of controls when planning any work at height. At best the company were placing reliance on a poorly supervised and inadequately trained system of harnessing to mitigate the consequence of falls.

"A cherry picker was already on site and could have been used to provide far safer access."