The 49-year old engineer – who asked not to be named – fractured his skull and was left partially deaf after a 3m fall.
The accident happened at Cranswick Country Foods’ site near Watton, Norfolk on October 27 2011.
Norwich Magistrates Court was told the fall took place while the engineer was investigating a fault with a data logger attached to a cooling unit.
Banging his head on impact
The worker used a free-standing ladder resting against the rear of the chiller to make the inspection. But the ladder was unsecured by any top ties or foot supports to prevent it from moving. Unfortunately, as the worker reached for some tools, he unbalanced and fell 3m to the floor, banging his head on impact.
The engineer spent four days in Addenbooke’s hospital in Cambridge after the incident. He damaged a bone in his right ear, which left him partially deaf and was unable to work for a month after the accident. He also suffered debilitating tinnitus.
Since his injury the man has been able to work only reduced hours.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that had the ladder been better secured, or a safer alternative provided, such as an elevated work platform, the fall could have been prevented.
‘Easily proved fatal’
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joanne Williams said: “This incident could easily have proved fatal. You do not have to fall from a great height to lose your life and work at height remains one of the most significant causes of fatalities and major injuries in the workplace.
“Extreme caution must be taken at all times, and the onus is on employers to ensure work is properly planned and supervised, and that adequate safety precautions are taken. That didn't happen here, and the engineer has been left with a permanent injury.”
Cranswick Country Foods, based at Sutton Fields Industrial Estate in Hull, East Yorkshire, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,690 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
HSE advice on working safely at height is available here.