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Inadequate guardrail caused bone-breaking fall

12 Jun 12 A building firm has been prosecuted for safety failings after a decorator was seriously injured when he fell through a substandard guard rail at a housing development in Reading.

Phillip Williams, 63, from Reading, fractured his hip, broke five ribs, chipped a bone in his spine and was left with internal bleeding and clotting around his lungs as a result of the fall on 30 August last year during the construction of a house at Wintringham Way.

Reading Magistrates' Court heard that he had been subcontracted to work at the property by the main contractor W Pocock & Sons Ltd, a local family-run business.

Mr Williams was walking towards a first floor light-well to talk to workers on the ground floor. As he leant in against a wooden guard rail (pictured below) it gave way and he fell 2.6 metres to the ground floor below.

He was in hospital for three weeks, and needed three months of recuperation before gradually returning to work.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the guard rail in the light well had been removed and replaced prior to the incident so that materials could be passed from the ground floor to the first. This seemingly caused the fixings to deteriorate, therefore making the guard rail inadequate to prevent a person from falling - a direct failing on behalf of the contractor.

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W Pocock & Sons, of New Lane Hill, Tilehurst, pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 in relation to the incident. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,706 in costs.

HSE inspector James Powell said after the hearing: “Mr Williams sustained serious injuries as a result of his fall, which could easily have been avoided had the guard rail been adequately secured to ensure that it could not be displaced.

"It simply wasn't up to the job, possibly as a result of the rail being removed and replaced on more than one occasion, and the subsequent deterioration this caused to the quality of the fitting.

"A thorough inspection of the guard rail after re-installation would have identified any weakness and could have saved Mr Williams a great deal of trauma. It underlines the need to routinely inspect fall protection equipment used for work at height."

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