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Health and Safety: company convicted after man injured at work

Editorial Staff

A manufacturer of display panels and other exhibition stands has been convicted of an offence under the UK's Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In April 2017, an unstable stack of panels "toppled over" onto an employee causing him to suffer a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm. The cause was surprisingly simple.

A stack of panels measuring 4 metres by one metre were untied, which is of course necessary when panels are being collected for work. However, a number of smaller panels had been rested against them and, as a result, the whole stack became unstable. This might sound impossible but what the UK's Health and Safety Executive call a stack isn't what the rest of us would call a stack. They were not stacked horizontally, a position from which it would be difficult for them to fall, but vertically. As the HSE says at one point in its announcement, "The company had not provided a safe place for the boards to be stored so they would not fall over."

However the compounding factors were that the boards were destabilised by the placing, by a person or persons unknown, of smaller boards against them, by the placing of the "stack" close to workbenches and close to thoroughfares used by staff. These latter complaints might seem to be both a question of being wise after the event but also to fail to take account of the realities of working with boards: no worker want to have to carry large boards far to his working area and, ironically, there might be an argument that to make him do so might increase the risk of strain or other injury.

The company Global Displays Limited, Global House, George Baylis Road, Droitwich, pleaded guilty, at Worcester Magistrates' Court, to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined GBP14,000 and ordered to pay costs of GBP1,179.

HSE inspector Alastair Mitchell said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out a risk assessment in relation to the storage of display panel boards. This would have identified the risks from unsafe stacking and the need for appropriate control measures, such as a method for storing boards safely."