Contractors hit with £75k fines after hotel fall

Grant Prior 8 years ago

Two construction companies have been fined £75,000 after a worker was left with life-changing injuries when he fell almost four metres through a hole in the first floor of a hotel in Aberdeen.

Scott Massie, then aged 37 years, was employed by Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, which had been subcontracted by Aberdeen Fabrication Limited (A-FAB) to work on the major refurbishment project in Market Street.

Peterhead Sheriff Court heard that Massie had been replacing a floorboard over a hole in the first floor, one of several that had been used to hoist materials up to the floors above.

But as he manoeuvred the board into position, it fell through the hole followed by Massie himself.

Massie landed on his back nearly four metres below, fracturing his spine in several places. No one heard him call out for help and he had to crawl back up to the first floor before colleagues found him.

He suffered eight fractures of the vertebrae, two broken ribs and was in hospital for almost eight weeks.

He had to undergo physiotherapy to learn how to walk again and has been diagnosed as having permanent damage to his lower back.

The incident, on 13 October 2009, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which, just a few weeks earlier, had served an Improvement Notice on principal contractor A-FAB following a site inspection.

HSE had found failings in how work at height was being carried out and given the company time to put specific improvements in place.

HSE’s investigation into Massie’s fall found the hole was part of a temporary hoist shaft installed on the instruction of the site manager, which consisted of holes in all four floor levels.

Boards placed over the holes when the hoist was not in use was the only measure to prevent a person falling through.

Riverside’s supervisor intended that they be put in position by two people and screwed down, but this was not always done and there were no guards around the hole when the hoist was in use.

HSE identified that A-FAB had failed to sufficiently address the safety issues in the Improvement Notice and that both companies had failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent persons from falling.

Aberdeen Fabrication Limited, of Carden Place, Aberdeen, was fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to a safety breach.

Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited, of Bon-Accord Crescent, Aberdeen, was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty.

Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Isabelle Martin, said: “It was clear there was a risk of a fall through the holes in the floor at this site and had Aberdeen Fabrications Limited and Riverside Construction (Aberdeen) Limited taken the action required by HSE inspectors this incident could have been avoided.

“But as a result of the failings of his employer Riverside Construction and the principal contractor Aberdeen Fabrications, Mr Massie has suffered severe injuries from which he is unlikely to ever fully recover.

“Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths, and there is no excuse for employers failing to protect workers who may be at risk from falls from open and unprotected edges, whether in floors or roofs, or any high level.”

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