The worker - Mark Askham aged 45 - fell after he climbed pipework to unblock a feed pipe at the miller’s Mile Road plant, near Bedford. Askham suffered broken ribs, cuts and bruising in the accident, which took place on February 26 last year.
Bedford Magistrates' Court was told that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the accident could have been avoided if the firm had adopted basic safety measures to protect workers against falls from height.
'Sat on one of the pipes'
After identifying the blockage to a pipe in the basement of the nine-storey mill, the worker climbed nearby pipework without the use of a ladder or platform. The worker sat on one of the pipes to reach the blockage but unbalanced and fell, hitting pipes below before landing on the ground.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Rowlands said: “This incident was entirely preventable. Mr Askham's injuries could have been far more serious than they were. European Oat Millers had made a commitment some years earlier to review all work at height activities yet there was no evidence that had been carried out.
"You do not have to fall from a great height to either lose or ruin your life. Work at height remains one of the most significant causes of fatalities and major injuries among employees.
Serious injury or illness
Rowlands added: “Employers who put people at risk of serious injury or illness can expect to face enforcement action and for the worst offences criminal prosecution through the courts.”
European Oat Millers pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The firm was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,712 in costs.
During 2010/11 there were 775 falls from heights of more than 2m height, according to HSE.
HSE nformation about safe working at height is available here.