Steeplejack Company Prosecuted after Fatal Accident

Central (High Rise) Limited has been fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £32,000 at Leicester Crown Court, after pleading guilty to breaching a number of health and safety laws. The Nottingham-based steeplejack firm was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive following the accident at work incident of one of its workers.

The company admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is – (a) properly planned; (b) appropriately supervised and (c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable, safe.”

On the 13th March 2008, 52-year-old Brian Collins, of Mansfield, was installing abseiling gear in order to paint a chimney at Sutton Bridge Power Station when the accident occurred. While working on a platform around the chimney, Mr Collins stepped onto an open grate. Falling some 34 metres to the ground below, Mr Collins was pronounced dead at the scene.

The steeplejack company was also fined after a separate incident occurred on the 14th August 2009. As two company employees planned to abseil down Nottingham Castle, it became clear that the workers had used the wrong equipment. One worker descended in an uncontrolled manner, causing him to fall to the ground and fracture a bone in his back.

After the court hearing, Martin Giles, an inspector for the medical solicitors Health and Safety Executive, explained how Central (High Rise) Limited failed to uphold its duty of care to workers. Mr Giles said: “The work at the power station required careful planning and assessment of the risks involved. Tragically, the company failed to make sure the rigging of the ropes was done safely and the result was the needless death of an employee.  At Nottingham Castle, the two men should not have been allowed to abseil with the ropes they used, but Central failed in its duty to properly supervise the work to make sure it was carried out safely. Luckily the injured man has since made a full recovery but his injuries could easily have been much worse.”

Mr Giles also reiterated the importance of employing safe procedures for working at height, which causes 4,000 serious injuries which is nearly as much as whiplash claims in the UK each year. Personal injury claims involving falls from height can be avoided if employers make greater efforts to ensure the effective planning and supervision of such work.