Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 27th July 2017, an employee was working as a dry liner for R&B Plastering Limited, which was contracted on the site to Robert Norman Construction Limited.

The employee was working on the second floor of the property, near to a hole that had been cut into the floor, for passing up plaster board from the level below. The employee fell three metres through the hole, causing fractures to his vertebrae and ribs, as well as severe bruising.

He was in hospital for 19 days and had to wear a back brace for six months. He still suffers physical and psychological issues as a result of the incident.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the hole was not adequately protected via covering or access. R&B Plastering had put a risk assessment in place for the work, but it was inadequate, and was not provided to the main contractor before work started.

Robert Norman Construction’s own policy outlined the need to review any subcontractors’ risk assessments prior to them starting work. By failing to follow this policy it had missed the opportunity to review R&B Plastering’s risk assessment.

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Robert Norman Construction Limited of Framlingham, Suffolk was subsequently liquidated, owing more than £1m. But it was found guilty in its absence to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £140,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,426.

R&B Plastering Limited of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £26,700 and ordered to pay costs of £8,426.

HSE inspector Prentiss Clarke-Jones said after the hearing: “The employee’s injuries are life-changing and he could have easily been killed. The incident could have been avoided if both companies had fully implemented safe systems of work and identified, during the planning stages, that materials would need to be safely transported between floors.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related injuries in this country, and the controls needed to prevent the associated risks are well known. Duty holders should follow the guidance on planning works to ensure that risks such as this work at height can be eliminated in the first instance by allowing safe means of access.”

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