Lanes Group fined £400,000 after worker falls
09 October 2019
LANES GROUP PLC was fined £400,000, with £9,896.19 costs, after pleading guilty to one offence under the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
The company was fined £500,000 at Westminster Magistrates Court on 17 July, but following an appeal, the Judge at Southwark Crown Court on 4 October adjusted the eventual fine from £500k to £400k. This is a £600k fine reduced by one third for a guilty plea to £400k, instead of a £750k fine reduced by one third to a £500k fine.
The Crown Court applied the same reasoning as the District Judge’s in the Magistrates Court but found that the Company was not afforded enough credit for its mitigation, which was reflected in the new sentence.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Keith Light, now 54, suffered injuries including a broken collarbone, 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung after falling from a height of 14ft while cutting back vegetation at Brent Cross viaduct.
In a Victim Personal Statement provided to the court Mr Light explained that following the accident on 2 November 2016 he spent 13 days in intensive care during which time he underwent two major operations and now has metal plates pinning his clavicle and ribs. He has been unable to return to his former occupation.
Lanes Group had won the contract to help with maintenance work, including vegetation removal, repairs and painting along the Northern Line in the North London boroughs of Barnet and Haringey and had started work at Brent Cross on 24 October 2016, with Mr Light working his first shift on 31 October.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) investigation found that Lanes’ site inspection had been inadequate and failed to realise that using ladders was inappropriate for the task and exposed workers to the risk of falling.
On the day of the fall, Mr Light arrived on site at 8am and was not given a safety briefing before starting work painting arches at the viaduct. Later in the day at a more inaccessible part of the site, Mr Light was instructed to climb a ladder and cut back some branches so that painting could continue.
The court heard that in order to reach the branches Mr Light had to twist to the left and reach across and as he did so he felt the ladder lurch and he fell to the ground.
ORR told the court that that the job was neither properly planned nor appropriately supervised, and because Lanes had failed to properly assess the site workers were unable to use equipment, such as a tower scaffold or mobile elevated work platform, which were specified in the work method statement.
Lanes’ Health and Safety Manager did not visit the site.
Ian Prosser, ORR director of safety and HM chief inspector of Railways, said, "Our thoughts remain with the victim who suffered such awful injuries. We welcome the sentence which clearly indicates the seriousness with which this offence is viewed and we expect Lanes and the rail industry as a whole to look very hard at their sites and make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure they are safe."