Housebuilder fined £10,000 after employee suffers serious injury in fall

A housebuilder has been fined after an employee suffered serious injuries following a fall from a first floor landing.

The 23-year-old was working for Bellway Homes Ltd on a house in Earsdon View, Shiremoor, when the incident happened on December 4, 2012.

North Tyneside Magistrates Court heard that the agency worker suffered a broken right wrist, fractured forehead, jaw and cheekbone and sustained a hairline fracture to her right hip. She also severed tendons in her left hand and suffered extensive bruising to her face, neck and back.

She had to have a metal plate inserted into her right arm and required further surgery to ease later complications.

She was returned to work six months later as a labourer but magistrates were told it is unlikely she will ever return to her usual trade as a plasterer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Bellway Homes Ltd for safety failings after investigating the incident.

HSE Inspector Emma Scott told the court how the worker had been clearing rubbish on the first floor of a property nearing completion and was on the landing talking to another worker in the ground floor hallway.

As she leant on a temporary handrail on the landing it gave way, causing her to fall around 2.6 metres to the floor below.

The HSE investigation found that the temporary handrail was a single piece of timber fixed to the protective cover of an upright post at one side and nailed with one nail into a timber door frame at the other side, which was where it gave way.

The court was told that the company had failed to provide suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the fall, and that had a more robust handrail been in place the incident could have been avoided.

Bellway Homes, of Seaton Burn House, Dudley Lane, Seaton Burn, Newcastle, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was also ordered to pay £904.70 costs.

Rob Searl, representing Bellway, said: “Health and safety is taken very seriously by Bellway Homes.

“The railing was fixed correctly initially. It was changed for some unknown reason and put back the way it was.

“Everyone I have talked to doesn’t know why that is the case or who did it.”

He added that following the incident the company had reaffirmed its health and safety plans around guard rails.

Speaking after the case, Miss Scott said: “This incident could easily have been prevented if Bellway Homes Limited had ensured that temporary guard rails were erected and installed correctly.

“Instead a young worker has been left with serious injuries which are still causing her pain and may well prevent her from continuing work in her chosen trade.

“The significant dangers of death and serious injury associated with falls from height during construction work are well known and long standing in the industry, and working on a landing area without suitable safety measures in place is simply not acceptable.”