Worker falls when working on cinema staircase


This incident drives home the need for edge protection to be in place at all times to protect workers on building sites against falls from height. It took place at a new Odeon cinema complex in West Bromwich, West Midlands in May 2013.

Odeon had hired building contractors Ereconomic Construction Ltd of Wolverhampton for the fit-out. They in turn subcontracted a worker to fit balustrades to a staircase in the cinema lobby.

Guarding removed

Some temporary edge protection was in place on the staircase at the first floor level, following correct procedure, but this was removed to allow the installation of flooring. Then there was a delay in installing the balustrade, and during this time no new temporary protection was put in place to guard against anyone falling.

The above-mentioned (unnamed) 52-year old worker was trying to reach some tools when he fell off the first-floor edge of the stairs. Although the depth of his fall was relatively slight, just 1 metre, it had bad consequences. He broke his collarbone on landing, and could not work for 3 months.

When the case was heard at Sandwell Magistrates’ Court following an HSE investigation of the circumstances on site, Ereconomic Construction of Wolverhampton entered a guilty plea, having breached The Work at Height Regulations 2005 regulation 6(3). The firm’s fine was £6,000 and additionally it had to pay £1,033 for HSE’s prosecution costs.

Preventable Accident

The responsible HSE inspector (Amy Kalay) commented:  “Ereconomic Construction Limited failed in its duty of care to the sub-contractor, who sustained a serious injury in a wholly preventable incident. Falls are the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, and it is imperative that all work at height activity is subject to a high degree of management and control. This is one fall that could have been avoided had the edge protection been left in place, or had alternative safety measures been provided.

HSE points our that in its recording year 2012/13, over 6,300 employees had serious injuries due to falls from height at work. Information on preventing falls is available here.

Building health & safety lapses, including problems related to working at height, are what the specialist construction safety consultants of McCormack Benson Health & Safety look for every day – and their advice and practical solutions can save contractors money, as well as keeping them out of the courts.