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Firms Fined for Workers' Four-Story Plunge Down Elevator Shaft

Aug. 13, 2012
Construction companies in the UK are fined when workers tumble down open elevator shaft.

Three UK companies were ordered to pay a total of £232,000 in fines and costs after two workers on an Exeter building site suffered severe injuries when the platform they were working on collapsed and fell four stories down an elevator shaft. The men were building new student accommodation for Exeter University at the former Elmfield Nursery when the incident happened in February 2008.

Somerset Carpenters Ltd. was served with stop work order by the HSE following an inspection at the site. The company was banned them from working until safety measures had been put in place to stop workers from falling down the elevator shaft. A wooden platform was then erected over the shaft but two weeks later, this collapsed, sending Ricki Slocombe and Matthew Blackmore plummeting to the ground floor.

Blackmore suffered a broken back and Slocombe suffered two broken legs and had to use a wheelchair for several months. He has been unable to return to work since the fall.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector, Simon Chilcott, said: "This was a terrifying incident for the two men, which could easily have let to their deaths. As it was, they suffered severe injuries, which were life-changing in the case of Mr. Slocombe. Contractors and employers must make sure they have taken all reasonable measures to provide a safe environment for workers to work in and that any temporary structures are secure."

Cowlin Construction Ltd. was fined £85,000 by Exeter Crown Court and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs by the court in the case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Prestoplan Ltd., which provides timber frame buildings, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 towards costs and Somerset Carpenters Ltd., which supplied labor at the site, was fined £35,000 with £22,000 costs.

Further information on how to reduce the risk of falls from height can be found on the HSE Web site.

The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's regulatory agency for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and illness. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; creating new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.

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