Manufacturer Fined After Workers Fall From Height

A shopping trolley manufacturer has been fined following an incident where two men fell approximately three metres as a metal cage they were dismantling collapsed beneath them.

On 12th May 2018, two employees at Wanzl Limited were disassembling a large metal cage as part of an ongoing improvement project at Prologis Park in Coventry.

After a visual inspection, Wanzl Ltd decided to hire scaffold towers and scaffolding boards for the task. Once the scaffold towers were erected, the two employees accessed the roof of the cage. They began removing panels one by one, dropping them to the floor inside the cage walls. After several panels were removed, the employees noticed the cage shaking in response to movement. Suddenly, the roof gave way, and both employees fell to the floor below.

One of the men, 52-year-old Michael Barton at the time, suffered a broken pelvis and injuries to his hip and arm. The now 57-year-old, from Walsall, was off work for 12 months following the incident.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the work had not been properly planned, appropriately supervised, or carried out in a safe manner. No consideration was given to whether dismantling the structure could be done without working at height or if the task was within the capabilities of the company’s employees. None of the employees involved were trained in assembling scaffolding towers, and the injured man had not received training in working at height. An investigation by Coventry City Council reached the same conclusion before primacy was handed to HSE.

HSE provides guidance on working at height.

On 10 November 2023, Wanzl Limited, located on Heathcote Lane, Warwick, pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to breaching Regulation 4 (1) of the Working at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined £320,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4016.35.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Charlotte Cunniffe stated, “Working at height remains one of the leading causes of death and serious injury to workers in the United Kingdom. All work at height, including one-off activities outside a company’s usual business, should be properly planned, and appropriate work equipment selected. Employers must assess the competency of their employees when assigning non-routine work.”

HSE lawyer Nathan Cook supported this prosecution.