The injured fitter was working for HPAS (which trades as Safestyle UK) as part of a team of five operatives carrying out a full window and door replacement job at a house in Doncaster, Yorkshire, on 1 March 2017.
As the fitter was carrying a window frame up to the first-floor rear bedroom window, his ladder slipped from under him and he fell more than 3 m. He broke a knee cap which required surgery, Sheffield Magistrates' Court was told.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the ladder, which had been resting on a polished tile effect concrete floor, was not footed or tied to a suitable point.
Inspector Stuart Whitesmith told IOSH Magazine: "The ladder appeared to be last safety inspected by Safestyle in 2009. From our point of view that was indicative of the poor checking systems in place."
He served an improvement notice against Safestyle over its failure to ensure work at height was safely carried out and appropriately supervised. "It was an area of concern that ladders were being routinely used in a way that constituted serious risk," Whitesmith said.
According to the Glass and Glazing Federation's Code of Practice for Working at Height in the Domestic Replacement Window Industry (bit.ly/2HujieK), windows should be installed from inside the building if possible.
Whitesmith said scaffold is the obvious alternative when outside access is needed, but "in this case it was reasonably practicable to carry out the installation internally".
He highlighted HSE guidance INDG455, Safe Use of Ladders and Stepladders, which states: "Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether use of a ladder is acceptable or not -- you should have first considered the risk."
Safestyle complied with the HSE's enforcement notice by improving its arrangements for planning and managing work at height. It now ensures that there is a lead installer on every team to oversee the work. If window installations cannot be completed inside a property, working platforms with guardrails are used.
The company was fined and ordered to pay £1,083 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations. (See table below for District Judge Redhouse's application of the sentencing guidelines.)
In its 2017 annual report, published only 13 days before the judgment, Safetstyle UK plc anticipated a fine of between £550,000 and £2.9m but noted that, because the final penalty could not be stated, the management had made noOne of the UK's largest window installation firms has been fined £850,000 after a worker fell from a leaning ladder that had been last inspected eight years ago. The penalty represents just over 6% of the firm's £13.8m profit before tax in the previous financial year.