health-and-safetyA linen hire service and a laundry company have both been fined for safety breaches after a worker fell from a ladder while trying to clear a blockage in an industrial-sized laundry machine.

A female employee of AAA Linen Services, who worked at their Park Royal headquarters in North West London, shattered her left ankle after she fell when the ladder slipped. She later needed 13 screws inserted in her foot to help repair the damage and has been unable to work since.

The incident, on 20 December 2010, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (3 June) prosecuted AAA Linen and the supplier of the machine, Laundryquip LLP, of Northamptonshire, for safety failings.

Westminster Magistrates were told that Laundryquip LLP had provided the reconditioned machine and installed it without suitable access steps that had been ordered by AAA Linen Services. In their place, AAA provided workers with a standard office chair to climb on when they needed to access the machine.

The worker, 41, a team leader at AAA Linen Services, had decided to use a ladder to reach and clear a machine blockage after having nearly fallen on a previous occasion while using the chair. The unsecured ladder slipped sending her falling to the factory floor.

Laundryquip LLP of Market Place, Brackley, Northants, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £16,500 in costs after being found guilty of a breach of Section 6(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

AAA Linen Services Ltd of Sunbeam Road, Park Royal, London NW10, which entered a guilty plea in August last year to a breach of Section 2(1) of the same Act between 29 October and 20 December 2010. The firm was also fined £5,000 with £4,500 to pay in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Nick Fry said:

“AAA Linen failed to ensure their employees’ safety when they needed to work at height to clear blockages on this large laundry machine. A chair was clearly the wrong choice of equipment and exposed workers to unnecessary risk. Their action led to an avoidable incident in which a woman was caused a great deal of pain and suffering.

“All work at height must be properly planned, organised and carried out by competent persons. Measures need to be put in place to avoid, prevent or reduce the risks of falls.

“Laundryquip LLP, as the supplier of the machine, had a duty to ensure that the machine was safe when put to use and, in this instance, they fell well below the acceptable standard of care.

“Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of injury.”