Employer fined over ladder fall death

An employer has been fined following the death of a decorator following a fall from a ladder in what the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) described as “an entirely preventable tragedy”.

Alan Beutner was decorating the exterior of a house in Plymouth on 15 June 2011 when the ladder, which was untied and placed in a dangerous manner on a curved section of ironwork, twisted free and he fell onto the concrete path below.

Mr Beutner, aged 58, suffered five fractured ribs, surface fractures to his spinal vertebrae and internal injuries and despite two emergency operations died in hospital nine days later, leaving a widow and three children.

His employer, David Faulkner, a partner in Roofcare Roofing and Building Contractors, appeared before Plymouth magistrates on 17 January in a prosecution brought by the HSE.

An HSE investigation found that a more robust trade ladder should have been used instead of the domestic-type ladder Mr Beutner was using, which had maximum safe working load of 95kg. Mr Beutner weighed 110kg.

It also said the work should have been carried out from a scaffold to prevent the risk of falls but failing that, Mr Faulkner should have ensured the ladder was securely braced and tied to the building.

Mr Faulkner, of Cattedown, Plymouth admitted an offence under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Lee said: “The risk of falls from ladders is well known and is a regular cause of injury and death. Mr Beutner suffered terrible injuries in this entirely preventable tragedy.

“If ladders are used to carry out work at height, no matter how short the job, it’s vital the task is carefully planned, the equipment chosen is suitably strong and can be secured and used safely.”

The case illustrates how everyday work situations and simple equipment can become potentially highly dangerous if proper health and safety procedures are not followed properly.

Employers seeking clarification or guidance on their health and safety responsibilities or facing prosecution can find out more by visiting the Palmers website or contacting our health and safety specialists Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell.