Burnley College fined after employee horror fall

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Burnley College has been fined £20,000 after an employee was severely injured when he fell while changing an air filter on an extraction system.

The sixth form and further education college was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had failed to ensure the work was carried out safely, despite specialising in teaching health and safety courses.

Preston Crown Court heard that the 63-year-old engineering technician from Burnley, who has asked not to be named, had needed to put his left foot on a cabinet and his right foot on the top rung of a stepladder to reach the filter.

As he did this, on May 28th last year, the stepladder toppled from under him and he fell sideways, hitting a bench on his way down. His back was broken in several places and he also sustained a fractured breastbone.

The employee required morphine for 12 days to manage the pain, was off work for five and a half months, and is likely to need to take pain killers for the rest of his life. He can now only walk short distances and has had to give up hobbies such as fell walking and DIY, which he carried out for his 85-year-old mother.

The HSE investigation found his supervisor had witnessed him removing the filter in the same way just a week earlier, but had failed to ensure the work was carried out safely in future.

The college had not given the employee any training on working at height, and had failed to produce a single risk assessment on work at height activities since moving to a new building in 2009.

Burnley College was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,600 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act on October 23rd.

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.”