HSE fines council for poor school maintenance

October 18th, 2012 Category: Educational Establishments

Local authorities have been given a graphic reminder of why school buildings need to be properly maintained.

Caretaker David O'Hanlon was installing a new light bulb in a roof void at the former Beckfoot School in Bingley, West Yorkshire last year when his foot went through an area that had not been boarded.

As a result, his foot went through the surface and he fell through the ceiling. The 62-year-old sustained a broken heel and a fractured hip in the four-metre fall, which means he now has mobility problems and will require further medical treatment in the future, including a hip replacement.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) therefore launched a prosecution against Bradford Council and the authority has now been fined £15,000 and more than £5,000 in costs.

Councils have now been urged to ensure their employees are adequately protected if they are working at height, as this is one of the most common causes of serious injuries and workplace deaths in Britain.

Morag Irwin, an inspector at the HSE, has also reminded local authorities they have a legal responsibility to carry out risk assessments of their premises so staff are "safe as they go about their day-to-day duties".

Councils may therefore find bringing in facilities management specialists a good idea, as they will be able to use their expertise and resources to ensure buildings are adequately maintained, so any potential hazards can be identified and dealt with early.

"This incident was completely avoidable and has essentially dashed Mr O'Hanlon's hopes and expectations for a healthy retirement," Mr Irwin commented.

He added that local authorities should provide necessary information and training in instances where this may be required, such as when an employee is required to work above ground level.

Basic steps such as these could go a long way towards ensuring councils stay on the right side of the law and avoid being hit by costly fines, as well as negative publicity that could impact on their reputation and credibility.