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Man dies in avoidable fall

Tom Wall06/02/2013 - 13:00

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Richard Pratley fell from a 1.8m ladder
Richard Pratley fell from a 1.8m ladder

Pub group Mitchells and Butler has been fined £235,000 after a man fell from a ladder while cleaning a pub in Bristol.

Richard Pratley, who was employed as a cleaner at the pub, fell from a 1.8m stepladder while cleaning 4.4m high corrugated roof at the Snuff Mill Harvester, Frenchay Park Rd, Bristol.

He suffered a fractured skull and died from his injuries on 23 January 2009.

Health and safety inspector Heather Clarke discovered the ladder was unsuitable for the work.

‘The ladder was not high enough for this work and from time to time Mr Pratley stood on the top step and then the platform in order to reach the top of the roof with a mop. There was no handhold,’ said Ms Clarke.

‘This was a tragic accident that could have been avoided without any significant expenditure on the part of Mitchells and Butler.’

There was no evidence that staff had been instructed to check the ladder before they used it, nor that it was ever inspected by the manager.

Neither Mr Pratley nor the manager had received any training in work at heights or use of ladders

There was no evidence that the company had any system in place for checking that their policy on work at heights was put into practice

The risk assessment was inadequate for the range of work at heights at this site.

‘The company had not properly risk-assessed the task and this ultimately led to the death of Mr Pratley,’ said Ms Clarke.

An inspection of the pub revealed dangerous electrical wiring, a slippery floor in the kitchen and trip hazards in the yard. Improvement notices were served requiring the company to put these matters right.

Mitchells and Butler Retail Ltd pleaded guilty to three health and safety offences at Bristol Crown Court in November.

It was fined £200,000 for the failure to ensure the safety of employees in relation to work at height and use of ladders, £30,000 for failing to maintain the electrical installation in a safe condition and £5,000 for failing to keep the floors of the kitchen and yard free of slip and trip risks.

It was also ordered to pay £65,000 costs to Bristol City Council.

After the accident the company changed the way employees clean the area concerned. The task is now done using a long-handled mop which avoids the need for any work at height.

Adrian Jenkins, public protection manager, said: ‘Bristol City Council health and safety inspectors target high-risk premises and activities to ensure that people at work and people visiting workplaces have their health and safety protected. They try to work with business to offer guidance but will also take appropriate action where Health and
Safety law is breached.’

According to the Health and Safety Executive, falls from height remain the most common cause of workplace fatality. In 2008/09 there were 35 fatalities, 4,654 major injuries and a further 7,065 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for over three days or more, due to a fall from height.

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