Six safety errors cost county £91k

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SUFFOLK County Council has been fined £48,000, plus costs, for six breaches of Health and Safety laws.

Ipswich Magistrates Court also ordered the council to pay £43,772 costs for the breaches, two of which were in schools.

Two charges related to a fall IT technician Paul Rudland, from Stowmarket, suffered while taking down a screen at the back of the stage at Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge, on October 21, 2009.

The court heard that Mr Rudland shattered his arm when he fell about 4m from a temporary aluminium platform which was being pushed along while he was on top of it. He needed a steel plate and nine metals pins in the arm and was off work for five months.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the council had not provided adequate training and had failed to monitor working at height in schools.

Ten days earlier a nine-year-old had fallen from a climbing frame at Burton End Primary School, Haverhill, landing on on concrete slabs fracturing his skull. The HSE said the council had ignored requirements for an impact absorbing surface under the frame and had not provided the school with sufficient safety information.

Three more charges related to failing to assess the risk of working with vibrating machinery over several years resulting in four highways department employees developing hand and arm problems.

After the hearing one of the HSE inspectors involved, Julie Rayner, said: “It is very disappointing to see a major employer like the county repeatedly fall short of its legal obligations to protect its workers and pupils.”

Andy Fry, Suffolk County Council’s director of public protection, said: “The county council has fully co-operated with the investigations and has also been working closely with the HSE to improve health and safety management arrangements since the matters that form the basis of the court cases came to light.

“Whilst we have taken significant steps to improve health and safety management arrangements, which the HSE have openly acknowledged, we accept that in these historic incidents more could have been done to ensure that our health and safety obligations were met. We have therefore pleaded guilty to the charges.

“We believe that these cases are serious and would like to offer our sincere apologies to the people that have been affected.”