The 37-year-old man from South Shields, who has asked not to be named, fell only a metre or so, but as he fell he reached to grab a hold and a pipe swung round and fractured his skull
He was working for MB Air Systems Ltd as a pipework installation engineer when the incident happened on 13 December 2010.
MB Air Systems Ltd had been commissioned to carry out work at the premises of GT Precision Products Ltd, in Peterlee where the worker was installing new pipework to a compressed air distribution system.
Peterlee Magistrates Court heard yesterday (26 July) that existing pipework requiring alteration was around three metres above floor level. The worker used a stepladder to access it, but lost his balance. He caught hold of a lever valve which opened and released a jet of compressed air. The open pipe then swung round, hit him on the left side of his head and knocked him off the stepladder.
He sustained 14 hairline fractures to his skull, a fractured left eye socket, bruising to his brain and internal bruising to his lower back. He has since recovered and been able to return to work.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that a risk assessment carried out by MB Air Systems Ltd and provided to GT Precision Products Ltd, stated that a powered access platform such as a scissor lift would be used for this type of task.
However, no such platform was provided and the injured worker was left to make his own arrangements, obtaining the stepladder from GT Precision Products Ltd.
MB Air Systems Ltd, of Glasgow Road, Wishaw, Lanarkshire, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,196.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to ensure the risk assessment was correctly implemented.
GT Precision Products Ltd, of Traynor Way, Whitehouse Business Park, Peterlee, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,196.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Paul Miller said: "This incident could have easily been prevented if the appropriate access equipment, as identified by the risk assessment, had been provided by the employer MB Air Systems.
"Equally, GT Precision Products Ltd should not have allowed the work to commence without the proper access equipment."
Falls from height remain the most common cause of workplace fatality. In 2010/11 there were 20 fatalities, 3,957 major injuries and a further 5,727 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for three days or more, due to a fall from height.