Health board fined £400k over UHW window cleaner fall

view of the hospital Image copyright HSE
Image caption Christopher Rees was cleaning the windows of the Women's Services Unit when he fell.

A health board has been fined £400,000 after a window cleaner broke his back when he fell from the fourth floor of a hospital.

Christopher Rees, 46, fell while cleaning windows at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, in September 2016.

He plunged more than 50ft (15.2m) from the suspended platform because there was no "end stop" fitted to a beam.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board offered its apologies to Mr Rees and said it "fully accepts" the fine.

Mr Rees, of Cardiff, suffered "significant and life-changing injuries" when he fell from the beam supporting him while cleaning the Women's Services Unit.

The health board provided the beam but failed to ensure that it had been examined for safety, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

An investigation found the health board failed to undertake suitable checks to ensure the company was competent to carry out the work.

It pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety At Work Act and was ordered to pay £15,846 costs alongside the fine.

The investigation also found his employer - W D Rees Maintenance - had failed to effectively plan the cleaning.

Company director Wayne Daniel Rees, 55, of Gallamuir Road, Tremorfa, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to breaching Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was banned from being a company director for five years.

Changes made

HSE inspector Gethyn Jones said: "Duty-holders must ensure that all work at height [is] properly planned, appropriately supervised and undertaken in a safe manner.

"It is essential that companies employing contractors do not simply rely on the knowledge and experience of the contractor but make reasonably practicable checks themselves to ensure work is safely completed."

The health board said a "significant amount of work has been undertaken" since the incident, including a review of all health and safety policies and procedures, to "ensure compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act".

It added: "All contractors or members of staff working on site must be risk assessed and sign a declaration form to confirm they have completed training and understood the health and safety procedures.

"The health board takes every step to protect the safety of our patients, staff and contractors."

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