News Firm Prosecuted After Decorator Falls Through Guard Rail

A building firm has been prosecuted for safety failings after a decorator was seriously injured when he fell through a substandard guard rail at a housing development in Reading.

Phillip Williams, 63, from Reading, fractured his hip, broke five ribs, chipped a bone in his spine and was left with internal bleeding and clotting around his lungs as a result of the fall during the construction of a house at Wintringham Way on 30 August last year.

Reading Magistrates’ Court heard that he had been sub-contracted to work at the property by the main contractor W Pocock and Sons Limited, a local family-run business.

Williams was walking towards a first floor light-well to talk to workers on the ground floor. As he leant in against a wooden guard rail it gave way and he fell approximately 2.6 metres to the ground floor below.

He was hospitalised for three weeks as a result of his injuries, and needed three months of recuperation before gradually returning to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and found the guard rail in the light well had been removed and replaced prior to the incident in order to pass materials from the ground floor to the first. This seemingly caused the fixings to deteriorate, therefore making the guard rail inadequate to prevent a person from falling – a direct failing on behalf of the contractor.

W Pocock and Sons, of New Lane Hill, Tilehurst, pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 in relation to the incident. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,706 in costs.

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After the hearing, HSE inspector James Powell, said:
“Mr Williams sustained serious injuries as a result of his fall, which could easily have been avoided had the guard rail been adequately secured to ensure that it could not be displaced.

“It simply wasn’t up to the job, possibly as a result of the rail being removed and replaced on more than one occasion, and the subsequent deterioration this caused to the quality of the fitting.

“A thorough inspection of the guard rail after re-installation would have identified any weakness and could have saved Mr Williams a great deal of trauma. It underlines the need to routinely inspect fall protection equipment used for work at height.”

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