A Lincolnshire meat processing firm, which is the sole supplier of beef to supermarket chain Waitrose, has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failings that led to a worker suffering serious injuries following a fall from height.

On the 21 July 2011 maintenance engineer, Wayne Thornhill had been asked to replace light fittings at Dovecote Park’s abattoir in Skellingthorpe, near Lincoln. The company provided him with a cherry picker to carry out the task, but Mr Thornhill soon discovered it wasn’t tall enough to reach the light fittings.

Fell onto concrete floor

In an attempt to reach the light fittings Mr Thornhill positioned step ladders on top of a wooden board spanning metal rafters. The board cracked and gave way under Mr Thornhill’s weight and he fell approximately 3 metres onto a concrete floor.

Mr Thornhill was airlifted to Lincoln County Hospital and diagnosed with a fractured vertebra and fractured heel bone. He required a number of months off work, but when he returned he was unable to fulfil his role as a result of his injuries and left the firm earlier this year.

The HSE told Lincoln Crown Court that Dovecote Park Ltd had failed to plan, supervise and ensure the work was carried out in a safe manner.

Dovecote Park pleaded guilty to breaching Work at Height Regulations, and was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,361.

Work at height is a high risk activity that must be properly planned

HSE inspector Scott Wynne said: “Work at height is a high risk activity that must be properly planned. Changing light bulbs was a foreseeable task, yet the company had never considered how they would, or should, carry it out.

“The activity should have been subject to a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, which would have identified the precautions needed to carry out the task safely, including selecting appropriate access equipment. The company simply instructed this individual to carry out the task and left him to his own devices. The resulting injuries were life changing.”

Allison Fitchett, a solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “Allowing the use of a cherry picker was laughable enough but condoning the Heath Robinson arrangement that led to the fall should have been dangerous in anyone’s eyes. Alternative equipment or instructions should have been provided. The company failed to identify blindingly obvious risks and as a result Mr Thornhill was seriously injured.”