Firm fined after school worker plunges 19ft

AN EMPLOYEE stacking beds under the eaves of a dormitory block at an independent school in North Yorkshire fell two storeys, but landed on a mattress.

The incident at Thorpe Underwood Hall, near York, where Queen Ethelburga’s College has its campus, cost Care and Recreation Holdings 4,000, with 1,110 costs, at Harrogate Magistrates Court yesterday.

Health and Safety Executive prosecutor Paul Robinson said gardener Malcolm Cox, 40, was storing mattresses and bed frames when temporary boards he was walking on tilted.

Mr Cox plunged through to the next floor, where he passed through a hole and landed on concrete, 19ft below. A mattress cushioned his fall, and no bones were broken but he sustained head, back and neck injuries, and was still off work nine months later.

Mr Robinson said Care and Recreational Holdings employed 350 staff on the Thorpe Underwood Estate and had a turnover of 5m a year. It was involved in private education, nursing homes and insurance, and used one of three wings in the block for storage. The others were dormitories when the school was in session.

Mr Cox had been standing at eaves level, beneath a beamed roof on temporary boarding, which was resting on joists. Mr Robinson told the magistrates that falls from a height were the most common cause of deaths among workers.

After the company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure employees’ safety, its counsel, Tom Nossiter, said it had a good safety record and had taken immediate remedial action.

A stairwell had been blocked up, and the area had then been floored.

Presiding magistrate David Gravells said: “This was a very nasty incident which thankfully had less serious consequences than might have been the case.

“There was a clear failure to take proper precautions, including effective supervision.’’