The worker, from Preston near Hull, was cleaning and repainting greenhouse gutters at Hedon Salads in Burstwick when he lost his footing and fell through the glass roof. The 44-year-old − who asked not to be named − broke his wrist. He also required 20 staples across a head wound before being discharged from hospital after an overnight stay.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the firm for failing to protect its workforce against the risk of falls after investigating the accident, which took place on August 26 2010.
Hull Magistrates’ Court heard that the worker joined a team asked to work on the gutters of 20 greenhouses at the firm's 11ha (30-acre) site in Main Street, Burstwick.
Told to walk heel-to-toe
The team was told to walk heel-to-toe along the gutters while relying on a long-handled brush to steady themselves against the glazing bars, according to the investigation. It also revealed that no equipment was provided and no instruction given to protect the workers against a fall.
The injured employee had cleaned some guttering and returned to the ground to collect his brush and paint. After climbing up and completing a short length of paintwork, his right foot went through the glass and he fell through the roof.
Used for cultivating tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, the greenhouses have an average size of 5,000m
HSE served a prohibition notice on the firm – which employs more than 100 people − preventing further work on the guttering until safety measures were in place.
‘Even lost his life’
HSE inspector Andrew Gale said after the hearing: “This employee was extremely lucky not to have suffered more severe injuries, or even lost his life, in a fall of over four metres. It could have easily been prevented by providing the proper equipment, such as a lightweight walking frame.
“This case highlights how important it is for employers to identify the risks involved in working at height, particularly near fragile materials, and taking the necessary steps to reduce those risks and prevent falls.”
Falls are the second highest cause of fatal incidents in agriculture and falls through fragile material account for half of these deaths, he added.
Hedon Salads, of Newport, Brough, was fined £12,500 with £3,921 in costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Advice on preventing falls is available from the HSE.
- 38 people died as a result of a workplace fall in Great Britain in 2010/11
- More than 4,000 suffered a major injury
- Falls are the second highest cause of fatal incidents in agriculture
- Falls through fragile material account for half of these deaths