Chemical companies usually consider managing exposure risks from hazardous substances to be most pressing but a chemical manufacturer has recently been fined after an employee fell two metres from a ladder and suffered a serious elbow injury showing that a failure to manage other health and safety risks can also result in a court appearance.

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard that on 6 June 2018, at Vertellus Specialties UK Ltd’s site in Northside, Workington, 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.

Vertellus Specialties UK Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £120,000 with £5155.80 in costs.

Companies are reminded that work at height accidents are one of the main causes of occupational injury and death. 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. In addition, while ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, they should not automatically be the first choice for work at height access. If a ladder is used, it is important that the right type of ladder is selected and those using it know how to use it safely.

Last reviewed 9 October 2019