A serious hazard to workers (and anyone else) on a construction site is open holes. Employers need to ensure that workers are provided with a safe work environment and safe system of work which means that if workers are exposed to unguarded holes in the floor, employers aren’t fulfilling their duty.
There are many incidents which have taken place involving workers falling through holes such as incomplete skylights during construction or renovation work. One such incident took place in Plymouth, in the UK recently and resulted in the injury of a worker.
An employee of a construction company suffered multiple injuries in the fall which he sustained while dismantling a floor at a premises in Plymouth.
The worker, 59 yearold Geoffrey Burt fell 2.3 metres into a void when he was inspecting rot on the floor of a small industrial building. The man suffered several fractures to his ribs, shoulder blade and spine as well as severe cuts to his head.
The following excerpt from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com explains what happened:
Geoffrey Burt, aged 59, was dismantling a floor at the company premises in Plymouth when he fell 2.3 metres into a void sustaining several fractures to his ribs, shoulder blade and spine, as well as severe cuts to his head.
Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard that the company instructed the workman to examine rot on the floor of a small, disused industrial building beneath layers of vinyl and carpet.
This revealed the void of 2.3 metres between concrete plinths which had been covered over to create the floor. The following day whilst removing the floor he plunged head first into the space below.
Health and safety inspectors discovered that the company took some steps to prevent people approaching the void but failed to take any measures to protect its employees from falls. The company failed to conduct a risk assessment or implement a safe method of working for the removal of the floor. They said that a simple board was all that was needed to cover up the opening and minimise risk to workers.
The company received hefty fines which could have easily been avoided with the proper care. The post goes on to explain,
W Cooper and Son (Plymouth) Ltd of Commercial Road, Plymouth, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.
The health and safety inspector, Annette Walker went on to state that the company should have ensured that there were adequate safety measures in place to guard against falls. Workers should have been adequately instructed and provided with all the necessary safety equipment and PPE needed to work safely on site. They should also have been more closely supervised.
She went to on to state:
“Mr Burt’s injuries have caused him a great deal of distress and pain and could easily have been avoided if his employer had simply provided a board to cover-up the hole.
This incident was entirely foreseeable and highlights the need for employers to take their responsibilities for the safety of their workforce seriously, especially when there are known risks.
Picture showing the hole in the floor which the worker plummeted through head first.