Firms fined for ‘serious’ safety failings in Hitchin

TWO firms were today (Monday) fined for safety failings, one of which led to an employee seriously injuring himself.

An employee of Stevenson’s P&H Ltd was seriously injured in a fall from dangerous scaffolding at a job in Hitchin, more than two years ago.

He sustained multiple fractures in the incident at a house undergoing refurbishment on Lancaster Avenue, after falling five metres to the ground. He has yet to make a full recovery or return to work.

Stevenage Magistrates’ Court fined the company �20,000 on Monday, and ordered it to pay �7,373 in costs.

It follows an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that the firm had failed to fit suitable edge protection on the scaffolding.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE principal inspector Norman Macritchie said: “Falls from height are all too common in the construction industry, with unsafe scaffolding often the root cause. The risks are well known and safe-working guidance is readily available, yet still entirely preventable incidents occur – as was the case here.

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“The painful, potentially life-changing injuries the worker sustained could have been avoided by the simple provision of edge protection on the section of scaffolding he fell from.”

Another company was also fined today by the same court for putting employees at risk with dangerous machines at its Hitchin production site.

The HSE identified multiple defects at United Paper Products Ltd, on Bury Mead Road, during a visit in February 2010.

At least four machines used to produce paper napkins were found to present an immediate danger to operatives, with magistrates told that guards and emergency stops had been disabled.

Although no incidents could be directly attributed to the safety failings, HSE inspectors noted two reports of employees sustaining serious injuries as they attempted to clean or clear a napkin maker.

United Paper Products pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

It was fined a total of �7,000 and ordered to pay �2,625.90 in costs as well as a �15 victim surcharge.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Graham Tompkins said: “The interlocks on several machines were deliberately disabled by bypassing the machines control system. This is extremely dangerous practice that could have resulted in employees losing fingers on the cutting blades.

“Guards and safety systems are there for a reason, and employers like United Paper Products have a legal duty of care to ensure they are fit for purpose and working effectively at all times.”