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Council fined £10k for ‘easily preventable’ health and safety failing

A council has been slapped with a £10,000 fine after pleading guilty to health and safety failings which led a worker to suffering serious injuries and distress while on the job.

Joseph Poterala, a 55-year-old employee of West Lothian Council, was painting the outside of a council home in July 2013 when the ladder he was on slid from the wall. He fell more than four metres and sustained a serious injury to his left hip and eight knee fractures.

The local authority has since completely overhauled its system for working at height, such as by developing a new risk assessment template.

At the hearing in Livingston Sheriff Court this week, West Lothian admitted to a single charge under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, since it had not ensured an alloy tower or podium steps were used by staff given the level of risk involved and the duration that equipment was used for.

So-called ‘ladder mates’, designed to stop the ladder base from slipping back, and a limpet device to prevent lateral movement were also not supplied.

“This incident could easily have been prevented had suitable and sufficient measures been put in place,” said Laura Buchan, head of the Crown Office’s Health and Safety Division. “Falls from height are one of the greatest single causes of death and serious injury to workers within the construction industry.

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings.”

West Lothian accepted that it had not properly planned and supervised the work leading to what was an entirely preventable incident.

A spokesperson from the authority said: “West Lothian Council takes the health and safety of its employees very seriously and has acknowledged the breach.

“Since this accident the council has reviewed its procedures and fully complied with the Health and Safety Executive recommendations.”

(Top image c. YinYang)


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