AN international packing company put the lives of its workers at risk over several years at its Huddersfield site, a court has been told.
Health and Safety Executive officers uncovered a long-term and systemic failure to ensure the safety of employees during the construction of wooden packing crates at the Meltham base of Neal Brothers Ltd.
The safety group launched an investigation last year, Huddersfield magistrates were told.
It resulted in a prosecution yesterday when the firm was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £3,289.20 in costs.
The firm was charged with breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The inquiry resulted from a visit by an HSE Inspector to the site in Bent Ley Road, Meltham.
During the visit, he saw an employee working on the top of a large wooden crate, more than four metres high, with no safety measures to prevent falls.
The court heard that the company had been served with an enforcement notice back in 2004 demanding safety improvements for activities that required working at heights over two metres.
The firm had then introduced harnesses for employees when at high levels but the investigation showed their use had been short-lived and the firm reverted to previous unsafe practices.
The HSE Inspector served a further enforcement notice on the company repeating the requirement to improve its system of working at height and began inquiries into its apparent history of safety failings.
His evidence, gathered from staff and witnesses, showed harnesses had not been used since at least 2006.
Neal Brothers (Leicester) Ltd, of Hastings Road, Leicester, admitted a charge of failing to ensure the safety of employees at its site in Meltham over a four-year period from April 2006.
Inspector Geoff Fletcher, who carried out the investigation, said: “It became clear that employees carried out a range of work activities at heights of up to four metres, yet there was nothing in place to safeguard them from falls.
“The company failed to learn the lesson it should have following the enforcement notice back in 2004 and allowed unsafe systems of work to become accepted practice, carrying on for at least four years.
“Of course, it is never acceptable to put people’s lives at risk. To do so on a repeated basis and with a blatant disregard for a previous enforcement procedure is appalling.
“Falls from height are the commonest cause of fatal injuries in the workplace and are also responsible for a large percentage of the most serious occupational injuries.”
In 2008-9 there were 35 deaths, 4,654 major injuries and a further 7,065 injuries that caused the injured person to be off work for over three days or more, due to a fall from height.