Indulgence Patisserie Ltd of Clough Road, Colchester, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 following the incident. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £5,151.50.
Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 8 January 2016, Angus Allan’s mother Anne – who is employed by the company – was asked to sort shoes that were stored on a floor, next to an unprotected area of fragile ceiling tiles.
Anne Allan fell approximately 2.7m to the floor below, suffering serious injuries to her pelvis, resulting in a five-day stay in hospital. A full recovery has since been made, and she has returned to work.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had not implemented control measures for employees working near fragile ceiling tiles.
‘Below the relevant safety standard’
Following the verdict, Angus Allan said: “Despite investing more than £80,000 per annum and employing specialists to help us ensure that we maintained the highest possible health and safety standards on site, we accepted in court that our conduct in this matter fell below the relevant safety standard.
“Since the accident we have invested, and will continue to invest, additional resources into our health and safety systems and staff training.”
Allan described his mother’s accident as “an awful event”, adding that the past two years had been a “very stressful time for all of us”.
“Following our experience, we would encourage other food manufacturing businesses to review their health and safety systems to make certain that they are fit-for-purpose.”
HSE inspector Jessica Churchyard 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.
‘Risks created by non-routine tasks’
“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.”
Founded in 1988, Indulgence Patisserie specialises in developing and manufacturing bespoke own-label and branded desserts. It has supplied retailers and foodservice since 1997, and started exporting in 2003.
In 2014, the dessert maker moved into a new £2.5m factory in Colchester.
The firm makes products such as cheesecake, gateaux, tiramisu and parfait under the Indulgence brand, and is currently developing pastry desserts, coffee shop-style cakes and hot eating desserts.
Last month, Orkney Cheese Company Ltd was fined £8,000 for health and safety failings after a worker was seriously injured by a fall from height.
Meanwhile, in April, an egg producer in Preston, Lancashire was hit by a £50,000 fine after a worker fell through a roof and sustained serious injuries.