Bakery giant Warburtons has been fined £2m after Andrew Sears fell and broke his back in 2013. He was off work for more than a year, and hospitalised with a compression fracture to his spine.
After returning to work, Sears was unable to continue in his old role and, following a secondary period of sick leave, he was dismissed by Warburtons.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Warburtons Limited because of the incident. The watchdog said there was a lack of training and supervision for employees working at height.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard Sears, who had worked at the Wednesbury bakery for six years, was cleaning one of the mixing machines when he lost his footing and fell nearly two metres. This was a routine job that he carried out every few weeks.
He was not able to return to work until December 2014 and was then dismissed almost a year later, following another long period of sick leave.
HSE inspector Mahesh Mahey told British Baker: “The Health and Safety investigation found that Warburtons Limited routinely expected their workers to climb on top of the mixers to clean them.
“The workers were often unbalanced and would brace themselves to stop from falling. The workers were not adequately supervised and there had been no training on how the mixer needed to be cleaned at height.”
Warburtons Limited, of Hereford Street, Bolton, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulation 2005 and was fined £2m and ordered to pay costs of £19,609.28.
Mahey added: “This should have been prevented. Falls from height are one of the biggest killers in the workplace and even falls from fairly low levels can be extremely dangerous.”
“Mr Sears’ life has been changed forever, but his injuries could have been more severe.”
A Warburtons spokesman told British Baker: “We take the health and safety of all our people very seriously and are deeply saddened that, on this occasion, our procedures failed to protect Andrew.
“We have taken the necessary steps to prevent this happening again and will continue to review all health and safety procedures across our business.
“We have a very strong health and safety record across all of our manufacturing and distribution sites and we invest heavily in ensuring an accident-free workplace for our employees, often working together with the HSE.”