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Court for Holmfirth firm after safety failings

08 January 2014

The owners of a Holmfirth business park have been fined after a local worker fractured an ankle in a fall from a ladder while carrying out work in disused premises nearby.

The 68-year-old maintenance worker, who does not wish to be named, had been asked by Bridge Mills Ltd to remove several heat exchange units from the roof space in a former machine shop in Huddersfield Road.

He was working from the ladder, being held by a cleaner, at various heights of around four and five metres when the ladder was knocked from the cleaner’s hands. He realised he was falling and jumped clear, rolling over to protect himself as best he could. Bridge Mills Ltd, which owns and manages the Bridge Mill site in Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, was prosecuted at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court (7 Jan) after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

The court was told HSE found several failings:

• There was no clear responsibility for health and safety in the company

• Work at height was not planned or organised, so there was no safe system of work in place

• The firm had not assessed the risks or provided the worker with work-at-height training

• The correct equipment for the job had not been provided, and the ladder used was not tied at the top or effectively balanced

The company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,355 in costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. After the hearing, HSE Inspector Jackie Ferguson said: "The worker was fortunate not to have suffered a far more serious injury – it doesn’t take a fall from a great height to inflict a life-changing injury or even death. The fact that he saw the ladder slipping allowed him to mitigate the potential consequences. "There were several safe methods open to Bridge Mills Ltd for the removal of the heat exchange units, including working from an integrated working platform. Instead, the health and safety of workers was treated in a vague and haphazard manner. "Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of injury. Working at height without the right equipment, training or systems is wholly unacceptable and extremely dangerous, and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when companies put their workers lives at such risk.”