Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that a railway maintenance worker suffered significant injuries including a broken collarbone, 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung after falling 4.3 metres from a ladder while cutting back vegetation.
Keith Light, now 54, fell while cutting back vegetation at Brent Cross viaduct on 2nd November 2016 on his third day in the job.
In a victim personal statement provided to the court Mr Light explained that following the accident 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 job.
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 24th October 2016, with Mr Light working his first shift on 31st October.
The Office of Rail & 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, 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."
The Ladder Association said that the case highlighted the merit of training in ladder use. Dennis Seaton, chair of the Ladder Association’s training committee, said: “There are many situations where a ladder can be the right solution, but they shouldn’t automatically be your first choice. It’s one of the main reasons we launched our ‘Get a Grip’ on ladder safety campaign with the clear message ‘When it’s right to use a ladder, use the right ladder and get trained to use it safely.’
“We strongly believe training is an important contribution in keeping people safe when working at height and that training is about more than just using the ladder; it’s about helping people understand when it’s right to use a ladder, (and even more so in this case, when it’s not right to use a ladder), choosing the right ladder and then understanding the simple steps to use your ladder safely.
“With falls from height still one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities and injuries - accounting for 40 fatalities in 2018/2019 – and with businesses facing record fines for failing to keep workers safe, our campaign sets out to ensure everyone using a ladder is fully trained and competent to do so.”