The pitfalls of using unsafe access equipment

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Posted on 4th Dec, 2014 | By Lorretta Tatham

Follow safety regulations isn’t just the right thing to do, it also keeps employers on the right side of the law. Failing to meet working at height standards and providing unsafe access equipment on the job can result in major fines, void insurance and even company shutdowns.

There are a number of high-risk jobs in particular that employers need to be aware of, especially when it comes to roof work. A large proportion of accidents occur when workers fall through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights. Other fragile surfaces included glass, slates and tiles, rotten chipboard and liner panels on built-up sheeted roofs.

The need to comply with regulations

Employers, along with anyone else in control of any work at height activity have to make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by trained staff. Employers have to provide a duty of care to their employees, through providing safe equipment and machinery as well as proper training.

Obviously, the duty of care does not apply if an employee is using a machine in an unsafe or unsuitable manner. However, if the employee did not know that such a use was unsafe, and the employer had not taken steps to inform and train him, a claim might still be possible.

Employer responsibilities

Since 1968, the Defective Equipment Act has ensured that employers are held liable for injuries caused by defective equipment – even if someone else manufactured the equipment in a negligent fashion. It is still an employer’s responsibility to carry out thorough checks and risk assessments on every piece of equipment they allow their employees to use. So, if an employee suffers a personal injury in the course of his employment, and as a result of a defect in the unsafe access equipment provided by his employer for the purposes of business, then the employer can be treated as liable for the injury suffered.

Fines, damages and serious injuries: real world examples

  • Firm pays damages after using unsafe equipment

Home Group, in Whitehaven had to pay a large sum in compensation after a labourer suffered a hernia from using access equipment that was too short to reach heights. The company had also failed to train its staff in the safest way to work at a height.

Since paying significant damages, Home Group have provided new ladders and given staff training on how to use them properly.

  • Supervisor fined over 10k after 23 year old employee becomes paralysed after fall

Paul Burke, a supervisor for BLS Asbestos Ltd, in West Yorkshire, ignored pleas for safety equipment from an employee, who later was paralysed in a 40ft fall. The employee was working on a re-roofing project at an industrial site and fell 40ft through a warehouse roof light onto a concrete floor. His supervisor failed to give him any protective equipment or safety training despite the employee’s pleas for help.

Durham Crown Court sentenced the supervisor to pay a £1,000 fine and £9,765.88 in costs for his role in the accident.

To minimise the risk of accidents happening in your workplace, why not sign up to our safety courses? You can book online or call us on 01282 615 517 to find out about any of the courses we offer.

Have you had any first-hand experience of the pitfalls of using unsafe equipment? If so, tell us in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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