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There have been three prosecutions by the HSE in recent days relating to people falling in the course of their work activities.

These three cases all highlight the serious risks attached to working at height and the need to ensure that safe systems of work are in place at all times. They also demonstrate that companies contracting out dangerous work are still responsible for ensuring that contractors are competent, have all the information they need and are employing safe systems of working.

The electrical retailer Comet Group plc has been fined £75,000 in relation to a contractor who died following a 25 foot fall through a roof light on store roof in Wrexham. The company pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were also ordered to pay £24,446 in costs.

The 33 year old was working for a roofing contractor on the 7th June 2007. He was not wearing any equipment that could have prevented his fall.

Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

The HSE inspector concerned said "This incident could have been avoided if the roof lights at the Wrexham store had been protected and the worker had been provided with appropriate safety equipment."

The HSE inspector involved in this case emphasised that when companies are employing contractors they must be sure that they are competent to do the work they are hired to do, and they need to understand their responsibilities.

The contractor's employer was jailed for two and a half years in November 2007 in relation to this incident.

In another case two companies have been fined after a worker was injured falling through a roof light serious injury.

The workers employer, a plant hire firm, pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of employees by not providing a safe system for working on a roof and was fined £4,000 with £1,694 costs.

The plant hire company was fined £1,500 with £1,634 costs. For breaching Section 2(1)(a) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in that: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

The company who employed the plant hire firm pleaded guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, in that they failed to conduct their undertaking to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that persons, not in their employment, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The third case an East Riding farm company was fined £3,000 for misusing a telehandler and allowing a worker to plunge three metres from an unsafe grain bucket whilst cleaning gutters on 14 May 2008. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the man's employer for breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which states: "Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury."

Merit Skills have many Health and Safety training courses that can help companies understand their health and safety responsibilities for their own employees and others. They also can help with training in the practical activities such as working at heights. The team at Merit Skills are always happy to discuss any health and safety training needs, you can contact us on 01733 246415.

For more information on this and other cases please go to visit the HSE website