‘Wholly avoidable’ accident ends catering engineer’s career

A court heard this week how a catering engineer has had to quit his profession after suffering serious injuries when he fell while repairing an extraction unit.

Neil Pearson, 27, from Teesside was working for Tyne & Wear-based HLA Services when he fell nearly three metres at a premises in Newcastle last year. He suffered fractures to his left hand and wrist, and strained his right arm in the incident.

After undergoing two operations, Mr Pearson can no longer work as a commercial catering servicing engineer and has had to retrain in a new occupation.

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HLA Services specialises in the design, installation and maintenance of commercial equipment in a number of areas, including catering and refrigeration.

It was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had not provided the correct equipment for work at height.

It was slapped with a £10,000 fine and ordered to pay £710 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Newcastle Magistrates’ Court heard this week that Mr Pearson was one of two men sent to the site to carry out the repairs. He climbed up a ladder to unfasten the clips which attached a rain cover to the top of the extraction unit.

Mr Pearson stepped off the ladder and stood on the small lip at the front of the unit to reach the back clips. He remained standing on the lip while a colleague moved the ladder to the other side of the unit, but fell when the rain cover became unstable.

After undergoing two operations, Mr Pearson wore a brace on his left arm for around four months and still struggles with movement and grip in his wrist and hand.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Sal Brecken, said it was a “wholly avoidable incident” which resulted in serious injury.

“If the company had properly planned the work activity and provided suitable equipment, such as a tower scaffold, then it could have been carried out safely. Instead Mr Pearson suffered painful injuries which have had a massive impact on both his work and personal life.”

The latest figures show that 40 workers a year are killed and almost 3,500 seriously injured following falls in the workplace.

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