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College in court after employee suffers life-changing injuries

Burnley College has been in court after one of its employees sustained serious injuries after falling three metres while changing an air filter on an extraction system.

What happened?

In order reach the filter, the 63-year-old engineering technician needed to put his left foot on a cabinet and his right foot on the top rung of a stepladder.

As he did so, the stepladder toppled from under him and he fell sideways, hitting a bench as he fell, breaking his back in several places and fracturing his breastbone.

He was rushed to hospital and required morphine for 12 days to manage the pain. He was off work for five and a half months, and is likely to need to take pain killers every day for the rest of his life.

Though he can now walk short distances, he has had to give up hobbies such as fell walking and carrying out DIY for his 85 year old mother.

An investigation into the incident found that the college had failed to ensure the work was carried out safely, despite specialising in teaching health and safety courses.

The court heard that the employee’s supervisor had seen that he needed to stand on a cabinet in order to reach the filter a week earlier, but hadn’t taken any action to ensure that the work was carried out in a safer way going forward.

What was the outcome?

Burnley College pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,600 in costs.

HSE Inspector, Rose Leese-Weller, said:

“It’s astonishing that Burnley College failed to ensure basic health
and safety systems were in place when it employs
lecturers who specialise in this area.

“Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of safety while working at
height would have known straddling a cabinet and the top rung
of a stepladder was dangerous, but this practice was
allowed to continue by the college.

“The extraction system was installed quickly and without thought for
the employees who would need to change the filters. The
technician therefore had no choice but to
reach them in this way.

“If the college had carried out a proper risk assessment in advance
then the unit could have been installed in an area where it could be reached by the mobile elevated work platform, without an employee’s life being put in danger.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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