Firm fined after worker had brush with death
A BUSINESSWOMAN and her firm have been given a court bill totalling almost £15,000 after an employee had a brush with death when she fell through a ceiling.
Evelyn Pawlowski, 58, the director responsible for health and safety at kitchen appliance firm, Appliance World UK Ltd, pleaded guilty at Swindon Magistrates’ Court yesterday to four charges of failing to comply with health and safety legislation.
Swindon Council brought the prosecution after long-serving employee Lydia Pike fell three metres to the ground through a fragile floor of a mezzanine storage area at the company’s office in Hobley Drive, Stratton , while trying to put a box up there. It left her with a cut to her right calf, and bad bruising to her legs, ankles and back.
Rosie Heath, prosecuting, said the incident, which occurred in February of last year, was the second case of injury to an employee at premises owned by the firm in less than a year, and could have resulted in death, as her head narrowly missed a desk corner.
In March 2010, a male employee at the firm, which has 26 staff and other premises in Royal Wootton Bassett , suffered a broken thumb after trying to move a pallet truck with three other members of staff in the firm’s warehouse, when no assessment had been carried out.
Ms Heath said: “This is the company’s first offence, although there was obviously a reported incident 12 months previously and the company had received advice after that and prior to this second incident.
“Despite that advice, there seemed to be no apparent urgency in getting health and safety practices in place or carrying out risk assessments.
“When she was interviewed, Mrs Pawlowski appeared to blame her staff and health and safety inspector for failing to carry out her responsibilities.
“Mrs Pike was fortunate not to have suffered more serious or even fatal injuries as a result of this fall. The company is also very lucky that that’s not the case.”
Mrs Pawlowski and the firm each pleaded guilty to four charges, including failing to prepare a written general health and safety policy and failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks to employees.
Russell Reeve, defending, said the firm had been running for 29 years and these were the only two incidents, so they could be viewed as isolated in the grand context. He said the accident happened as there had not been a risk assessment of the storage area by a consultant.
He said that only the firm’s two directors were allowed up the ladder into the mezzanine storage area, and Mrs Pike was repeatedly told she must be under supervision by one of them if she wanted to go up, but she ignored these orders when the directors were away on this occasion.
Mr Russell said the firm and Mrs Pawlowski were very conscientious of health and safety, pointing out in relation to the mezzanine, that it was accessed rarely and by few people, and that normally Christmas decorations and files were kept there.
He said that since the accident, the company had paid Mrs Pike compensation and had commissioned a whole review of health and safety.
Mrs Pawlowski, who wept in court, said: “I deeply regret Lydia’s accident. “I’m hugely sorry for any failings on my part and all I can ensure is all health and safety compliance is done in the future.”
Mrs Pawlowski was fined £2,000 and the firm was fined £8,000 and told to pay £4,666 costs.