£22k court bill shared by Spalding and Sutterton firms

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Two firms have shared a £22,000 court bill after four workers were injured in a 3.5m fall at a Spalding vegetable processing and packaging site.

The workers were employed by Spalding-based J & P Recruitment Ltd and regularly worked at the site, owned by West End Cold Stores Ltd, in Horseshoe Road.

On September 22, 2008, they were asked to remove the insulation panels from one of the cold stores, which had previously been destroyed by a fire, in the hope that they could be reused.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the workers were removing the ceiling panels using a forklift truck together with a man-riding cage.

When trying to remove the final panels, all four workers stepped onto one panel. It gave way and they fell 3.5 metres to the ground.

All four suffered a combination of broken arms, smashed femurs and broken collarbones. One worker is still unable to work as a result of this incident.

J & P Recruitment, which is also based at the site in Horseshoe Road, Spalding pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

West End Cold Stores, of Rainwalls Lane, Sutterton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the same act.

Spalding Magistrates’ Court fined J & P Recruitment £5,000 and ordered them to pay costs of £800. West End Cold Stores was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £1,862 in costs.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Jo Anderson said: “All four workers involved in this incident suffered extremely serious injuries and could have been killed. They were employed to carry out tasks on the factory floor, and had no experience in working at height.

“No risk assessment was carried out and no proper supervision took place whilst the ceiling panels were being removed - a serious failing on the part of both companies.

“Every month more than a thousand people suffer serious injuries as a result of slips, trips and falls in the workplace. These shattering injuries can be easily avoided.

“Employers and organisations that use agency workers have a joint responsibility to ensure the safety of all staff who work on site.

“Each party needs to be clear about their responsibilities to avoid serious incidents such as this.”