Principal Contractor Fined after Worker Falls through Stairwell Opening

A principal contractor has been prosecuted after a worker fell through an open stairwell during the course of his work. The sub-contractor was laying bricks for a second storey on a new build project. He slipped and fell through an opening in the floor which was designated to be the stairway. He fell roughly 3 metres and shattered his left heel on landing on the floor below. Brown Construction Ltd was fined £17,333.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated, and inspectors established that the company had not taken any measures to prevent workers from falling through the stairwell opening. An inspector stated after the hearing that by implementing simple measures, such as by installing guardrails around the opening, the accident could easily have been avoided.

5 tips to help prevent falls through openings during construction work:

  1. Do a risk assessment for every activity involved in the construction work. Look at the plans to determine where – and when – openings such as stairwells will appear during the course of building work. Work out how you will prevent them becoming a hazard, in terms of persons or equipment potentially being able to fall through them.
  2. Put the right controls in place, at the right time. Cover any gaps with secure coverings or boarding, and make sure the material can take the weight that is expected to be exerted on it. Put guardrails around openings, and highlight the edges with brightly-coloured paint or tape where feasible.
  3. Regularly check that your controls are in place, and that they are fit for purpose. Do not let anyone remove your control measures until work requires it, and inform everyone on site that coverings and guard rails are being removed.
  4. Provide information for all persons on site (including sub-contractors and visitors) about the location of any openings in flooring. Accompany those new to the site and point out these areas so they are aware of their location.
  5. Follow a safe system of work when installing guard rails and coverings, and also when removing them.

Falls during construction work are still all too common, but it doesn’t take much to prevent them happening. Take the time today to check that you have the right controls and procedures in place to prevent one of your workers from being seriously injured during a fall.