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£450,000 fine for Tata Steel.

Steel giant, Tata Steel, has been fined £450,000 for safety breaches after a worker fell into an open pit.

A hearing at Sheffield Crown Court heard that, on 26 February 2014, Steven Ayres was working at Tata Steels Billet Mill, Stocksbridge, where he was emptying a skip at the bottom of an open pit.

With the assistance of an overhead crane operated by a driver, Steven Ayres removed two floor plates that fully covered the pit; removed the skip from the hole; emptied it; replaced the skip into the pit; and started to replace the floor plates.

While he was replacing the first plate onto the top of the pit using the crane, it swung out of position. As the crane lifted the second plate, Steven Ayres positioned himself out of the way in case this also swung out of position.

As the second plate was being moved, he stepped back and fell three or four metres into the pit and sustain injuries including damage to his kidney and ribs.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found a risk assessment had been completed by Tata Steel UK Limited in October 2012, 16 months before the incident, which had identified the need to provide a barrier round the pit when the floor plates had been removed to empty the skip.

However, the necessary barrier was not provided round the pit until after the incident.

Tata Steel pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £450,000 with £32,099 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector, Mark Welsh, said: “This incident could easily have been avoided if Tata Steel UK Limited had actually acted on its own findings and provided a simple but effective control measure in the form of guardrails to prevent a fall and by using safe working practices.

“A fall from this height into a pit containing various metal objects could easily have resulted in a fatality. Companies should act swiftly if, and when, risks are identified and relevant control measures should be put in place when working at height.”