HSE prosecutes Suffolk County Council after three incidents at its workplaces… Suffolk County Council has pleaded guilty to multiple breaches of health and safety law at three of its workplaces in Ipswich Magistrates’ Court.
The Council was charged with a total of six breaches of health and safety regulations as a result of HSE investigations into serious incidents at two schools in Haverhill and Woodbridge and at the Council’s highway department.
One incident occurred at Burton End Primary school on 11 October 2009 when a pupil was playing on a climbing frame on school property and lost his footing and fell to the concrete slabs 5 feet below fracturing his skull. He missed 10 weeks of schooling while he recovered from his injuries.
The HSE investigation discovered that Suffolk Council had failed to ensure there was a safe surface beneath the climbing frame and had also not informed the school authorities about the dangers of playing on the climbing frame while the concrete slabs were there.
Another of the charges related to the injuries sustained by an IT technician after he fell while taking down a screen at Farlingaye High School on 21 October 2009. The man broke his arm after a fall of 4 metres from a mobile aluminium platform known as a tallescope. His arm was shattered in numerous places and he was off work for 5 months while he recovered.
The subsequent investigation revealed that the council had not provided necessary training to its employees especially with regard to working from heights which is a frequent cause of accidents in the workplace.
The other breaches of health and safety law occurred at the highway department of Suffolk Council. Employees at the department had been using vibrating machinery for a number of years that had led to four of them developing a debilitating hand arm vibration syndrome. The Council admitted culpability in not adequately assessing the risk of using the machinery over a long period of time.
Ipswich Magistrates’ Court imposed a fine of £48,000 on Suffolk County Council and ordered them to pay costs totalling £43,772.
Julie Rayner, A HSE investigating officer, speaking after the case said:
“It is very disappointing to see a major employer like the county council repeatedly fall short of its legal obligations to protect its workers and pupils.
“These cases show the need for all organisations to ensure that they understand the risks in their business and take sufficient steps to manage and monitor them.
“HSE will not hesitate to take action against any organisation, big or small, where it finds breaches of the law “