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Case Studies

Firm fined after elbow break

A security installation firm has been fined after a maintenance engineer broke his elbow when he fell more than three metres through fragile ceiling tiles at a site in Dunton, Essex.

The engineer, who does not wish to be named, was attempting to access an electrical control panel in a ceiling void to fix a faulty roller shutter door when the incident happened on 21 December 2012. He sustained a fractured elbow and ankle. Security Door Systems Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified they had failed to make sure the work on the ceiling panels was carried out safely.

Basildon Magistrates’ Court was told on October 10 that the engineer, who had worked on the same door on previous occasions, accessed the void by a ladder supported by a colleague. He then made his way across the ceiling panels, which were attached directly to the underside of timber joists, using a wooden ply board as a work platform. After repairing the control panel and checking the door was operational, he fell through the ceiling to the floor below.

HSE found the company didn’t have a sufficient risk assessment in place for undertaking work at height on the site. Following the incident the electrical control panel was relocated to ground level to avoid the need to work on the fragile ceiling.

Security Door Systems Ltd, of Thurrock Commercial Centre, Purfleet Industrial Park, Aveley, Purfleet, Essex was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £440 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the court case, HSE Inspector Corinne Godfrey said: “Security Door Systems was a regular contractor at that site but failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment that identified the fragile ceiling surface and the need to work above it. And in turn, they failed to implement measures to prevent falls through fragile ceiling surface when work was being undertaken in the void. It was luck rather than good management that someone had not fallen before. Incidents involving falls through fragile roofs are unfortunately all too common. Employers have responsibility to ensure that suitable risk assessments are undertaken for work at height, and to make sure that robust and safe systems of work are implemented. This engineer was very fortunate not to have suffered far more serious injuries, or indeed injure others as he fell to the ground.”

Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at


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