Kirkwall Sheriff Court heard how, on 30 October 2017, an employee of Orkney Cheese Company Ltd was asked by the general manager to retrieve a dead mouse from an unfloored loft area.
After doing this by crawling along ceiling joists, he then placed his foot on a fragile board that had been left behind when the factory was built. The board gave way and he fell about 2.5 metres to the reception below.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the manufacturer would have ordinarily bought in external contractors to deal with vermin issues and that employees were not usually required to work at height within the business.
No control measures
In this instance, the HSE found that the employee fell though the suspended ceiling and suffered a significant injury because no control measures had been implemented to cross the unfloored loft safely.
Orkney Cheese Company Ltd of Crowness Road, Kirkwall, Orkney pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £8,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Norman Schouten said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.
“Working on or near fragile surfaces should be properly assessed and managed. This case highlights the importance for companies to assess and control risks created by non-routine tasks.”
Falls from height
There have been a number of prosecutions against food companies in the past year for incidents involving falls from height.
In May, bacon processor Quality Food Products (Aberdeen) Ltd was fined £10,000, after workers were spotted carrying out unsafe work on various roofs.
Meanwhile, in April, an egg producer in Preston, Lancashire received a £50,000 fine after a worker fell through a roof and sustained serious injuries.