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Lack of fall protection put lives at risk

26 Nov 10 A construction company has been fined £7,000 for a lack of fall protection, endangering the lives of up to 30 workers. Despite previous warnings, hazards included an open lift shaft.

Empty window frame, with a rubbish shute attached, on the sixth floor of the Kings Dock apartment block in Liverpool
Empty window frame, with a rubbish shute attached, on the sixth floor of the Kings Dock apartment block in Liverpool

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Retro Future 2000 Ltd following a visit to the site on Kings Dock in Liverpool city centre on 29 April 2010, which revealed major safety concerns.

The inspection of the six-story apartment blocks, on Keel Road, found that several areas of the site had no barriers to stop workers falling and being seriously injured or even killed.

They included an open lift shaft, a staircase landing between the fourth and fifth floors with no walls or rails, and an empty floor-to-ceiling window frame on the sixth floor with a rubbish chute attached.

HSE inspectors saw that the slightest trip from debris lying around could have easily resulted in a worker falling out of the window frame while emptying rubbish into the chute.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that HSE also already issued four enforcement notices following a previous visit to the site six months earlier. They included a prohibition notice relating to falls from height, stopping work taking place until improvements had been made.

Retro Future 2000 Ltd was found guilty of breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to take measures to prevent workers being injured in a fall. The company, of Oldham Road in Manchester, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,981 on 25 November 2010.

Kevin Jones, the investigating HSE inspector, said: “This is one of the worst cases I have ever dealt with and Retro Future is extremely lucky that no one was seriously injured. The company was managing a major construction project in Liverpool city centre, but the conditions on the site were appalling.

“There were several instances where Retro Future had failed to do anything to prevent falls, and put lives in danger as a result. We issued four enforcement notices, and offered written advice on managing the risks from falls, following a previous visit.

“Sadly, despite initially making improvements, the company appears to have fallen back into old habits within a few weeks.”

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