A County Durham dairy has been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker suffered life-changing injuries following a fall.
Simon Atkinson, 41, of Dipton, had been unloading empty milk bottles from a vehicle at Lanchester Dairies Ltd’s site in Lanchester when the incident happened on 6 September 2013.
He fractured an eye socket, sustained bleeding in his skull, multiple collar bone fractures and a broken rib and had to be put into an induced coma until surgery was carried out to remove a blood clot from inside his skull.
Mr Atkinson was in hospital for nine days, has been unable to return to work since his fall and is awaiting further surgery to repair damage to his spine.
His employer, Lanchester Dairies Ltd, was prosecuted on 19 August by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found that despite a risk assessment identifying a "likely” risk of fall, there were no measures in place to prevent one.
Peterlee Magistrates’ Court was told Mr Atkinson was alone at the time of the incident but because of his head injury had no recollection of the fall.
He had been unloading the bottles into a storage area set 1.6m below ground level of the outside yard. His fall was either from ground level or from the rear of the delivery vehicle, which would have been 2.6m above the concrete floor of the storage area.
The court heard a barrier had previously been in place across the doorway to the storage area to prevent falls, but this had been removed two years earlier and never replaced.
A risk assessment for the company, carried out nine months before the incident, had stated that a safe system of work and training was needed for the unloading task, but this was not carried out until after Mr Atkinson’s fall.
Lanchester Dairies Ltd, of Upper House Farm, Lanchester, Durham, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,690 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the case, HSE Inspector Michael Kingston said: "Lanchester Dairies was aware that the work being done by Mr Atkinson and others involved a fall risk, yet they failed to implement simple, inexpensive measures to prevent it. As a result Mr Atkinson suffered major, life-changing injuries and there was a real possibility that the fall could have proved fatal.
"Falls from height are one of the main causes of major injury and death in the workplace. This case reinforces the need to properly assess the risks and to put in place measures to prevent falls occurring.”