The risk of death when working from a height, particularly a height above 2 metres is not the only risks associated with such work, sometimes workers may escape with their lives but may still be forever affected by the incident, as one worker recently found out. The man was left paralysed after he fell just 3 metres whilst standing on top of a piece of machinery.
The man was paralysed from the neck down following the accident due to irreversible damage to his spine. The incident took place on a work site in The Uk, as the following excerpt from an article on safety website PPConstructionSafety.com explains:
The incident occurred at the company yard in Kilsyth when Mr Shields had climbed the ladder at the rear of the vehicle to gain access to the top of the gritter and then slipped and fell head first onto the ground.
He was rushed to hospital but was found to have sustained several fractures of his spine, leaving him paralysed. He remained in hospital until July 2011 and later had surgery to his right arm that has provided him with some limited movement.
HSE investigators found the company failed to take sufficient measures to prevent falls where work was being carried out at height.
The machinery was not properly designed and the worker was not provided with the proper PPE and fall protection to prevent him from falling 3 metres to the ground. Authorities highlighted that the incident could have been avoided if employers had taken suitable precautions or used alternative means of accessing the machine, such as a tower scaffold.
Ultimately a lack of planning can be blamed in this incident, which highlights the need for proper safe work plans to be developed when high risk work is being undertaken. A simple hazard identification and risk assessment, together with the implementation of the appropriate controls would have negated this incident.
Hazel Dobb, health and safety inspector had this to say about the incident which cost the company thousands of dollars in fines but cost the worker much more, a lifetime confined to a wheelchair,
“Mr Shields could have easily been killed. As it is, he has been left with irreversible injuries and he and his family have obviously been devastated.
Inex Works Ltd failed to make sure employees were able to work in safety. This incident could have easily been avoided as there were several other ways this work could have been carried out, such as using alternative means of access or use of a harness.
Tragically, that is a lesson for the company learned too late for Mr Shields.”
Companies should learn from the example of this employer who unfortunately only realised too late what needed to be done to provide workers with a safe work environment and system of work- in Australia this is a requirement under work health and safety laws and must be established before work even begins.
Another requirement is ensuring that all workers have completed general safety training prior to beginning work, as proof each work should be in possession of a White Card.