On 19 October 2010, an incident took place at Iceberg Ltd, a fish processing factory in Fraserburgh. A worker named Charles Howie was seriously hurt after falling 2.6 metres from a scaffolding tower where he was removing 2 ceiling-mounted refrigeration units.
Mr Howie was employed by Spark’s Mechanical Services Ltd, an electrical and refrigeration services company based in Aberdeen – the company has now been fined £10,000 for a health and safety breach.
The refrigeration units that Mr Howie was working on were fixed to the ceiling with 8 bolts, but 4 had been removed when the accident occurred. A forklift truck should have been in position to support the units before Mr Howie continued working on them, but this was not the case.
An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that 1 or more of the 4 remaining bolts failed, causing the unit to drop and hit the scaffolding tower. As a result, Mr Howie was thrown to the ground, and was left with 5 fractured ribs as well as a collapsed lung. He wasn’t able to resume normal working duties for 5 months.
Spark’s Mechanical Services hadn’t provided suitable equipment, and guard rails were missing from the scaffolding platform, according to the HSE. John Radcliffe, an HSE inspector, said the company’s approach to dealing with this kind of work “appeared to have evolved from custom and practice devised by employees rather than what was actually safe.”
Spark’s pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Peterhead Sheriff Court.
Falls from height are the single most common cause of fatal workplace injuries, as well as being the cause of many serious injuries.