£850k fine after ladder fall! What went wrong?

The accident

In March 2017 an employee of HPAS Ltd, trading as Safestyle UK (S), fell over three metres from a ladder while trying to install a bedroom window on the first floor of a property. As a result of his fall the worker required surgery for a broken knee cap. Following the accident, the HSE found that the installation of windows was not being routinely carried out from the inside of properties, which could have reduced the work at height risk, and ladders were being used in unsafe ways. There was also no system in place for monitoring the safety of work, leaving employees unsupervised and therefore at greater risk. There were problems in the planning of the work, including the poor selection of equipment, plus the ladder used was not footed or tied which meant it was able to slip.

In court

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), which states that employers must ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a manner which is safe as far as is reasonably practicable. The company was fined £850,000 with £1,083 in costs.

The right tools

For work of this type a ladder is unlikely to be suitable. They are good for general access but less so as a substitute for a work platform. This is outlined in the legislation. To comply with the WAHR, ladders may only be used for work at height: (1) when a risk assessment has shown that using safer alternatives is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or (2) because there are existing workplace features which prevent other access equipment from being used.

Tip. If your workers need to use both hands to carry out the task while on the ladder or use their hands to carry equipment up and down, a straight ladder is unsuitable. Three points of contact must be maintained.

Correct process

If you have determined that a ladder is the right access equipment, having regard to the above restrictions, there are several actions you must take.

Tip 1. Firstly, if you have five or more employees your risk assessment must be written down. This should demonstrate that the work is low risk and explain the precautions to be taken. 

Tip 2. Train workers in the content of the risk assessment, correct ladder use, care and inspection. You can use the HSE’s leaflet (INDG455) to support your training. It includes sensible advice and clear diagrams showing how three points of contact works in practice and how to secure the ladder.

Tip 3. Check that the specification for ladders is up to the job. For site work, an industrial grade ladder is needed.  A ladder inspection checklist can be downloaded free here.

If three points of contact cannot be maintained, a straight ladder is not suitable. Your risk assessment must show that a ladder is justifiable because the work is low risk and of short duration.


Have You Assessed Your First Aid Needs?

Under health and safety legislation, employers are required to assess their first aid needs and implement the findings. Why not use our document to prepare for a medical emergency?

Is this necessary?

Employers must complete an assessment of their “first aid needs” in order to comply with the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR). There is no legal requirement for you to have written evidence of your assessment, but it’s a good idea to do so. Having your assessment documented provides a record that it was undertaken and it’s easier to review your provision in the future.  Safety Aide provide this assessment document free of charge. Click here for this document.

Tip. The manager completing the assessment should have sufficient knowledge of the business to ensure all circumstances are considered, for example they should know about employees with health conditions, specific hazards, shift patterns and the frequency of lone working.

Completing our document

Our first aid needs assessment is based on HSE guidance to enable you to meet the legal requirements. It begins with an explanation of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR), followed by a section outlining the basic details of your business and premises. Here you must give details of your location, the name of the manager completing the assessment and its verification, the date of completion and the planned review date. Following this, you are invited to explore four factors which affect your first aid needs. The headings are: (1) “Risk of injury”(2) “Persons at risk”(3) “Location/accessibility to emergency personnel”; and (4) “Hours of work”.

In completing the form you’re guided through the process, considering what types of medical need might arise, how quickly professional help may arrive, and the hours of cover required by first aid personnel. There are notes explaining the content which is expected in each section.

Tip 1. When considering the types of injury or medical incident which might have to be dealt with, review past accidents and talk to first aiders about their experiences.

Tip 2. There is no direct legal requirement for your first aid arrangements to cover non-employees, but you may wish to do so, particularly if your premises are open to the public, or your services are provided for residents or customers.

Ready for action

Having thought through all the factors which affect your decisions you’re then invited to draw conclusions about the required first aid equipment and the numbers and level of training of first aid personnel. For completeness we’ve included a space to describe your arrangements for keeping records of first aid treatment.  Safety Aide provide competitive first aid training across the UK to all BAGMA members at a local centre or on-site. Please contact us

Tip 1. Read the HSE’s guidance as you work through these sections (see the next step). This will help you to identify particular facilities and equipment which are needed, beyond a standard first aid box. It will also help you to decide the degree of training needed for staff.

Tip 2. In the final box summarise any “Further action required”. This might include equipment to be purchased, training requirements and refresher courses, routine checks of first aid boxes, etc.

Our form helps you to review key factors, including the site location, type of workplace, hazards and risks, the convenience of emergency services, first aid equipment and the number and training of first aid personnel. Your completed document provides proof that the exercise has been undertaken properly.



In the Courts - Driver killed by overhead power line strike

The partners of a Suffolk based farm have been sentenced after a haulage contractor was electrocuted to death when his vehicle struck an overhead power line.

On 30 August 2016, Mr Christopher Wilson was killed when his tipping trailer was raised and contacted overhead power lines that ran across part of the yard at the Airfield Grain store, in Parham near Framlingham, Suffolk.

The site was managed by Nicholas and Roger Watts, partners of F S Watts & Sons. Mr Wilson was electrocuted and died at the scene.

Investigating, the HSE found that F S Watts & Sons had failed to take suitable precautions for work near to the overhead electric power lines.

Mr Nicholas Watts and Mr Roger Watts each pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 3(1)(a) contrary to regulation 14, of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and each was fined £9,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,700.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Saffron Turnell said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young father. This death could easily have been prevented if those in control of operations at the grain store had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.”

What you need to know

Accidental contact with live overhead power lines kills people and causes many serious injuries every year. People are also harmed when a person or object gets too close to a line and a flashover occurs. Work involving high vehicles or long equipment is particularly high risk, such as;

In Agriculture – combines, sprayer booms, materials handlers, tipper vehicles, ladders, irrigation pipes, polytunnels; Remember:

  • going close to a live overhead line can result in a flashover that may kill. Touching a power line is not necessary for danger;
  • voltages lower than 230 volts can kill and injure people;
  • do not mistake overhead power lines on wooden poles for telephone wires; and
  • electricity can bypass wood, plastic or rubber, if it is damp or dirty, and cause fatal shocks. Don't rely on gloves or rubber boots to protect you.

Lessons to be learned

This tragic accident could so easily have been avoided. The risk from inadvertent contact with overhead power lines should have been recognised, the work activities should have been properly planned and suitable control measures put in place. All these considerations should have been included in the field risk assessment process and dealt with before the work commenced. 

Tip 1. Before you conduct your work carry out a field risk assessment of the work area. walk the job and look for hazards that may have an affect on high-level work equipment. This may include power lines, lighting, heating pipes or other services.

Tip 2. If the work presents a risk of coming into contact with high-level electrical services, then check to see if they can be isolated for the duration of the work.

Tip 3. Ensure that you issue a safe system of work to your staff and talk them through it before they start. This is also an ideal opportunity to discuss your field risk assessment.

Above eye level

If your staff intend using work equipment such as extension ladders, elevating platforms, tractors, forklift trucks etc., then ensure that they are instructed to watch out for all high-level services.

For a basic field risk assessment form please click here and download a free copy.  Also, free guidance note GS6 on overhead cables is found at the HSE website.

Failing to identify the presence of overhead electrical power cables cost one father his life. A risk assessment will not satisfy the law unless all such significant hazards have been identified and managed.


Fire Extinguishers - Do you know which one to use??

Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) workers are using the wrong type of fire extinguisher to deal with electrical fires, a survey has revealed.

Do you know, which extinguisher to use and on what type of fire if needed in an emergency?

The survey found that 10% would use a foam extinguisher to put out an electrical fire.

Another 27% used ABC powder fire extinguishers (or dry powder extinguishers), which are suited to solids, flammable liquids and flammable gases – Class A, B, and C fires. They should never be used in small, confined spaces if there is a risk of inhaling the powder.

Both types of fire extinguisher can badly damage equipment that may be unaffected by the fire itself.

The survey which include H&S managers also revealed that 8% admitted they didn’t know which fire extinguisher they should use and 7% were unaware of the universal colour-coded system for fire extinguishers.

Each year, there are 40,000 fires in the workplace, which can put the lives of workers at risk but using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can also have major consequences,

Not only can it maximise the spread of a fire, it can cause major damage to a site and equipment, thus costing companies millions of pounds to repair the damage.

Using the correct fire safety equipment is of utmost importance, and it’s crucial that all staff on site are trained, aware and understand what type of fire extinguishers to use and in what situation.

It is also interesting to note that in this year 5 of the Top 10 Fines under the Fire Regulations included lack of Fire Awareness Training. For more information about these fines please click here.

Contact us for your FREE Fire Awareness Online Training Trial.


Top 10 Fines for Non-Compliance of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order

10. Poundstretcher – £51,500

Leeds Crown Court fined Poundstretcher, a chain of discounts stores in the United Kingdom for seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in October 2005. The offences were found at Poundstretcher’s Castleford store in West Yorkshire.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failure to take adequate fire precautions for its employees and other relevant people
  • Failure to review its fire risk assessment
  • Emergency routes and exits blocked
  • Inadequate staff training

9.    Hallmark Hotel Group – £75,000

UK Luxury hotel company Hallmark Hotel Group received a fine after putting guests at their Cheshire hotel at serious risk from fire. Firefighters called at the premises in Wilmslow in April 2008 for a routine visit and discovered a catalogue of safety issues. Hallmark Hotel Group were charged with three counts of serious fire safety breaches.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Not a single working fire alarm
  • Faulty smoke detectors
  • Substandard fire exits
  • Staff had not been properly trained in fire safety

8.    Tesco PLC – £95,000

London Fire Brigade prosecuted retailer Tesco following a fire in October 2007 and subsequent inspection of a supermarket at Colney Hatch in Barnet. This incident led to concerns about fire safety within the store and was inspected by the Brigade the day after the fire. Tesco pleaded guilty to five breaches of the RRO (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) at Wood Green Crown Court in April 2010.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failure to ensure escape routes were kept clear
  • Inadequate fire separation in the building due to doors being wedged open

7.    Douglas and Gordon Limited – £100,000

Letting agent Douglas and Gordon Limited based in London received their fine in July 2011 for failing to act on fire risk assessment. Douglas and Gordon Ltd pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Southwark Crown Court. London Fire Brigade carried out an audit of the communal areas after a fire broke out in a block of flats owned by the company.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to act on significant findings
  • Failure to make an emergency plan
  • Ensuring that fire doors were self-closing
  • Failure to install emergency lighting

6.    The Atomic Weapons Establishment – £200,000

The Atomic Weapons Establishment who are responsible for the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent were fined by Reading Crown Court in May 2013. AWE admitted a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. An employee suffered burns when a fireball erupted in his face at the Aldermaston site in August 2010.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to supply adequate safety clothing

5.    The Radnor Hotel – £200,000

The London Fire Brigade secured their biggest ever fine against hotel owner Salim Patel, who put lives at risk by flouting fire safety laws. Salim Patel, the former owner of The Radnor Hotel was issued an enforcement notice requiring that put right the deficiencies uncovered which included:

Fire Safety Breaches

  • inadequate fire detection systems
  • inadequate emergency lighting
  • missing fire doors
  • no fire risk assessment
  • evidence the basement storeroom was being used for sleeping

 4.    The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel – £210,000

The manager and the sole director of the The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel in Finchley London, had denied 12 charges of neglecting fire safety laws under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 but was found guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in February 2012. Inspections started after suspicions about the fire safety standards in the hotel after a fire broke out at the hotel in May 2008.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Faulty fire doors
  • Lack of smoke alarms in some of the guest-rooms
  • Inaccessible escape routes
  • Staff had not been trained to an appropriate standard in fire safety awareness
  • No evidence of any suitable fire risk assessment was produced

3.    The Co-operative Group – £210,000

British consumer cooperative, The Co-operative Group were in Southampton Crown Court charged with serious fire safety breaches at its store in Shirley Road, Southampton. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority prosecuted for six breaches of fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to maintain the rear emergency exit doors
  • A fitted lock requiring a security code on the emergency door
  • Fire alarm call point obstruction
  • Failing to ensure that the store manager was provided with suitable and sufficient fire safety training
  • Failing to ensure that the fire alarm system was being regularly tested
  • Failing to ensure a means of early detection of fire

 2.    Shell International – £300,000

Multinational oil and gas company Shell International were fined over significant failings in fire safety at the Shell Centre in central London. The energy giant pleaded guilty at Inner London crown court to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It was the largest fine imposed under the law. Two small fires in three weeks at the Shell Centre on York Road, Waterloo prompting investigation.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Blocked escape routes
  • Blocked fire exits
  • Defective fire doors
  • Excessive fire loading

1.    New Look – £400,000

British global fashion retailer New Look who have a chain of high street shops in the UK, received the maximum possible fine of £400,000 following a fire that gutted the retailer’s Oxford Street store in 2007. 35 engines and 150 fire-fighters were needed to tackle the blaze and crews remained at the scene for the three days. Trade was disrupted at more than 50 Oxford Street shops. New Look pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 following prosecution by the London Fire Brigade.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Insufficient staff training
  • Storage blocking escape routes

Good business management includes taking responsibility for fire safety, knowing the law and acting on it. This conviction shows that large companies are not exempt from prosecution and that the Fire and Rescue Service will take action when businesses do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a substantial fine. 

Working in partnership with Safety Aide can stop this happening to your company. Let us carry out your Fire risk assessment and staff fire training.  Contact us for a free quote.