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Prosecution focus: Working at height

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

A transport and haulage company has been sentenced after a worker died due to falling from the rear of a transport shipping container.

An employee of J R Adams (Newcastle) Limited had been unloading goods from the transport shipping container, which was on the back of a trailer at the company premises in Gateshead.

The employee was inside the container with the rear doors open preparing access for the overhead crane, and then the removal of the steel girder contents.

While undertaking the work, the employee fell approximately 1.5 metres from the rear of the container.

The Health & Safety Executive investigation found that although the company had several generic risk assessments and safe working method statements in place, it had not put in place the simple control measures to prevent or mitigate a fall from the rear of this container. The firm also failed to carry out a suitable or sufficient risk assessment for this specific work activity.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,322.

It is important for businesses to understand that working at height refers to any work that takes place where a person could fall a distance that can cause personal injury, this includes any height, and also includes falling into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

This significant financial penalty comes as a warning that employers and those in control must properly assess the risks and plan the activity.

Written by: John Carver

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