A contractor had visited the store to replace filters within an air conditioning unit which was located on a plant platform above a suspended ceiling in the store’s warehouse. The contract worker fell almost three metres from the platform and through the suspended ceiling, sustaining fatal injuries.
An investigation by Adrian Monkhouse, Principal Environmental Health Officer at Rotherham Council, revealed that there were no barriers in place to prevent falls from the platform, the area of the platform immediately in front of the access ladder was restricted (just 45cm in width) and there were several tripping hazards in this area, including cabling and the fixing points for the ladder itself.
Iceland Foods Limited was instructed to take this area out of use until suitable protective measures had been installed on the plant platform. Once this work was carried out to the satisfaction of the investigating officer, the plant platform was put back into use in March 2014.
Further investigations revealed that Iceland Foods Limited had not carried out a risk assessment to consider access to the plant platform either by contractors or their own employees. Iceland argued that they had intended for a guardrail to be installed around the plant platform and had in fact paid for one during refurbishment of the store.
Iceland contended that they were entitled to rely on the specialist contractors who carried out work on the plant platform to identify the missing handrail. These claims were rejected by the prosecution and the court. The company was fined £1.25 million for each offence and ordered to pay the full costs of £65,019.64 to Rotherham Council.
Karen Hanson, Assistant Director for Community Safety and Street Scene, said, “the case highlighted the importance of companies considering not only their own employees but the work of contractors as part of their health and safety arrangements. All businesses should be aware of the importance of health and safety – particularly for high-risk activities such as working from heights.”
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