Demonstration of the Importance of Complying with Legislation

Demonstration of the Importance of Complying with Legislation

09th May 2018

In a recent Magistrates’ Court case, a double glazing company was fined £850,000 for breaching health and safety regulations which led to a worker falling from a height of more than 3 metres when installing new windows.  Following the court case, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector revealed that the incident could easily have been avoided had the company implemented some simple, practicable precautions.  The worker sustained knee injuries which required surgery but, when the incident is considered in detail, it’s a wonder that the injuries were not much worse, especially when the height he fell from is taken into account.

The window installation operative was attempting to install a new window to a first floor rear bedroom at a property in Doncaster when the ladder he was using for access slipped.  The HSE investigations discovered a litany of risks that added up to a case of severe poor practice when it comes to working at height:

The double glazing company’s system for planning work at height failed to ensure that work was carried out in a safe manner.  Window installation is likely to involve work at height at times, so having effective and enforced safe systems or work in place is an essential part of doing business for double glazing and window companies. 

Windows were being routinely installed from the outside of the building, instead of from the inside, necessitating the use of ladders.  Windows should be routinely installed internally where possible – this is logical as so much work at height could be avoided by adopting this practice.

The ladder was neither footed nor tied.  Before using a ladder it’s vital to ensure that it’s set at the correct angle and that the ladder feet are solidly set.  Any leaning ladder should be tied at the top too, to ensure safe practice and comply with legislation.

The company had no system or monitoring or supervision in place, leaving workers to their own devices.  The adoption of a formal system for monitoring and supervising those who work at height is an essential part of ensuring safety in the workplace. 

According to the HSE inspector this is an incident that could easily have been avoided by following correct procedures and adhering to health and safety at work legislation that is designed to reduce risks and accidents here in the UK. 

An effective risk assessment could have resulted in the window installation work being carried out from the interior of the building, eliminating the need to use a ladder completely.  However, if the installation of the new windows from the exterior of the building was unavoidable, then using suitable access solutions with effective edge protection and having a formal system in place to ensure that the work was adequately supervised could have resulted in the accident being avoided.