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Chemical co in court after faulty ladder led to 2 m fall

A firm that manufactures chemicals for the agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors has appeared in the dock for the second time in two years, after a worker fell two metres from a ladder and sustained a serious elbow injury.

Image credit: HSE

Vertellus Specialties UK was ordered to pay more than £125,000 at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court earlier today (26 September) after the incident on 6 June 2018.

The court heard that an employee was using a ladder to inspect a steam leak at height when the ladder failed and the employee fell to the ground.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to ensure that work at height was properly planned and managed. The company also failed to ensure that equipment provided for use at height was inspected at regular intervals and was fit for use.

“Work at height accidents are one of the main causes of occupational injury and death,” said HSE inspector Carol Forster. “Employers should consider if working at height can be avoided and, if work at height is undertaken, it should be properly planned and managed appropriately, and all equipment should be fit for purpose.”

Vertellus, which was prosecuted in 2017 over a blaze that ripped through its Middlesborough plant as a result of a planned and risk assessed operation going wrong, pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act for the latest incident. The company was fined £120,000 plus £5155 in costs.

“It is clear from this case that the ladder in question was not fit for use," commented Dennis Seaton, chair of the Ladder Association’s Training Committee. "This unfortunate accident could have been avoided if the company had carried out the correct ladder inspections; detailed recorded visual inspections should be carried out regularly by a competent person, and pre-use checks should be carried out by the competent user before using a ladder.

"It is imperative that companies who use ladders in the workplace, assign the role of inspection to a person (or persons) who have the necessary training, skills, experience and knowledge," he added. "By doing so, there is much greater likelihood that accidents such as this can be avoided."


Kellie is a freelance writer and former online editor of the Health and Safety at Work website.

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