An accident which was reported recently reminded me of the serious consequences that workplace accidents can have especially on those within the construction industry. The incident also reminded me of the need for safety measures when undertaking work from heights because falls from heights are still the most common cause of injury in the construction sector. Almost every construction worker has witnessed an accident on site first hand or knows someone who has suffered a fall while engaging in construction work.
The accident in question took place on a site in Swindon in the UK and was reported on the popular building website PPConstructionSafety.com. Construction accidents can have extreme and severe consequences for workers if the proper control measures are not implemented.
According to the article, the 2 companies involved Wates Construction Ltd and Tego Roofing Ltd. were fined for failing to implement the proper fall protection which led to the paralysation of a worker. The worker fell through a waterproof membrane into an unguarded opening on a major development site, resulting in life changing consequences.
The horrific accident resulted from the man plummeting more than 4 metres while conducting metalwork in preparation for the installation of a vent in a roof on the new development. The man fell through the hole where the vent was going to placed. This is why we say that any possibility of a fall above 2 metres needs to be managed and the appropriate fall protection implemented.
During the investigation of this incident it was revealed that the scaffolding underneath the opening where the man was working was removed and the scaffolding boards placed over the opening were removed in order for the waterproof membrane to be placed, which meant that there was no safety mechanism in place to prevent a fall or minimise the seriousness of the impact.
Read what the post on PPConstructionSafety.com went on to explain:
The court was also told:
RAMS – were unsuitable and insufficient (failed to refer to the installation for the vent);
Confusion – surrounded who was the site supervisor when the incident occurred and,
Lack of action – manager observed persons near opening but did take action.
HSE established that Tego Roofing failed to provide adequate supervision or instruction to its employees and Wates Construction failed to plan, manage and monitor the work and did not ensure there was a risk assessment in place.
Sadly accidents such as this one occur quite regularly despite the fact that they can be quite easily avoided by simply implementing the appropriate fall protection and whatever other controls are needed. Sadly the worker in this case was paralysed but the consequences for him could have been even worse, he is lucky to be alive, others may not be.
The employer in this instance failed to plan, manage and monitor work processes on the site and failed to implement risk assessments. Employers also need to ensure that workers are supervised appropriately especially when undertaking high risk work. Part of an employer’s duty according WH&S regulations is for them to implement a safe system of work to avoid incidents such as this one.