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Company fined after employee paralysed

Inex Works Ltd has been in court for serious safety failings, after one of its employees was left paralysed from the neck down after a falling three metres from the top of a gritter.

What happened?

Colin Shields was standing on top of the gritter in an attempt to help his colleagues dislodge compacted grit salt from inside the machine.

The 34-year-old had climbed a ladder at the rear of the vehicle to gain better access to the top of the gritter. As he moved along the vehicle to get a pole to help him dislodge the salt, his foot slipped and he fell, head first, three metres onto the ground below.

He was rushed to hospital, but sustained multiple fractures of his spine, leaving him paralysed. Though he has since had surgery that has provided him with some limited movement in his right arm, the majority of his injuries are irreversible.

An investigation into the incident found that the firm had failed to ensure sufficient measures were in place to prevent falls where work was being carried out at height.

The method that employees were using to dislodge the gritter was deemed unsafe, and Mr Sheilds was not provided with a harness, restraint or handrails to prevent him from falling.

What was the outcome?

The court heard that the incident could have been prevented by taking suitable precautions or using alternative means of access such as erecting tower scaffolding to work from.

Inex Works Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £13,500.

HSE Inspector, Hazel Dobb, said:

“Mr Shields could have easily been killed. As it is, he has been left
with irreversible injuries and he and his family
have obviously been devastated.

“Inex Works Ltd failed to make sure employees were able to work in safety.
This incident could have easily been avoided as there were
several other ways this work could have been carried
out, such as using alternative means of
access or use of a harness.

“Tragically, that is a lesson for the company learned too late for Mr Shields.”

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

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