Two construction firms have been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was left with life-changing injuries when he fell almost four metres through a hole in the first floor of a hotel in Aberdeen.
Scott Massie, then aged 37 years, was employed by Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, which had been subcontracted by Aberdeen Fabrication Limited (A-FAB) to work on a major refurbishment project at the premises in Market Street.
Peterhead Sheriff Court heard today (15 April) that Mr Massie had been replacing a floorboard over a hole in the first floor, one of several that had been used to hoist materials up to the floors above. But as he manoeuvred the board into position, it fell through the hole followed by Mr Massie himself.
Mr Massie landed on his back nearly four metres below, fracturing his spine in several places. No one heard him call out for help and he had to crawl back up to the first floor before colleagues found him.
He suffered eight fractures of the vertebrae, two broken ribs and was in hospital for almost eight weeks. He had to undergo physiotherapy to learn how to walk again and has been diagnosed as having permanent damage to his lower back.
The incident, on 13 October 2009, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which, just a few weeks earlier, had served an Improvement Notice on principal contractor A-FAB following a site inspection. HSE had found failings in how work at height was being carried out and given the company time to put specific improvements in place.
HSE’s investigation into Mr Massie’s fall found the hole was part of a temporary hoist shaft installed on the instruction of the site manager, which consisted of holes in all four floor levels.
Boards placed over the holes when the hoist was not in use was the only measure to prevent a person falling through. Riverside’s supervisor intended that they be put in position by two people and screwed down, but this was not always done and there were no guards around the hole when the hoist was in use.
HSE identified that A-FAB had failed to sufficiently address the safety issues in the Improvement Notice and that both companies had failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent persons from falling a distance likely to cause personal injury and, in particular, failed to ensure that holes in the floors were adequately guarded or that other means were in place to prevent persons approaching and falling through said holes.
Aberdeen Fabrication Limited, of Carden Place, Aberdeen, was fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, of Bon-Accord Crescent, Aberdeen, was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Isabelle Martin, said:
“It was clear there was a risk of a fall through the holes in the floor at this site and had Aberdeen Fabrications Limited and Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited taken the action required by HSE inspectors this incident could have been avoided.
“But as a result of the failings of his employer Riverside Construction and the principal contractor Aberdeen Fabrications, Mr Massie has suffered severe injuries from which he is unlikely to ever fully recover.
“Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths, and there is no excuse for employers failing to protect workers who may be at risk from falls from open and unprotected edges, whether in floors or roofs, or any high level.”
Information about working at height can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height/index.htm
Notes to Editors:
1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
2. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.
3. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
4. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
5. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press