Food manufacturing firm throws caution to the wind and receives £16,000 fine

As Taunton Magistrates Court heard, the incident occurred in February 2010 while 64-year-old Barry Walton of Taunton worked at the processing plant in Wiveliscombe.

As Walton lifted metal sheets from a forklift onto the roof, he was swept from the shipping container – falling two and a half metres to the ground. As a result, Walton broke his ribs and damaged muscles in his leg and shoulder, rendering him unable to work for seven weeks.

An investigation carried out by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Vion Foods UK had failed to plan the work properly, forgoing implementation of a secure structure protecting workers from falling.

Although supervised by another member of staff, Walton had not received sufficient training for working at height.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Kate Leftly explained, “Any work at height needs to be properly planned and supervised to minimise the risk to workers. If these things are not done, falls can happen all too easily with serious consequences.”

‘”In this instance, Mr Walton did not need to be standing on the shipping container to carry out the work. He could have used a vehicle such as a fork lift to deposit the sheets or he could have worked from a contained elevated platform.”

Vion Foods UK pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure; so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

The firm’s resulting fine totalled £12,000 plus £4,400 in costs.

According to an HSE statement: “Falls are the biggest cause of deaths in Britain’s workplaces. 53 people died in 2004. On top of this, nearly 3,800 suffered major injury such as broken bones or fractured skulls.”

Falls from height are one of the most common accidents at work and a big cause of work accident fatalities. Standards allow businesses to meet stringent benchmarks set and agreed upon by peers operating in the same business environment. Find out now how you can ensure effective health and safety management practise in your workplace.

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