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Construction company and director in court after roof fall

Date:
21 November 2013

A Monmouth construction firm and its managing director have been fined for safety failings after a labourer fell more than four metres through a fragile barn roof, breaking his back on his first day working for the company.

D & R Maintenance Solutions Ltd and John Dunmore were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident which occurred while solar panels were being fitted to the roof of a barn at Claverdon, Warwickshire, on 24 February 2012.

The 36-year-old man from Monmouth was carrying a solar panel when he fell through the fragile roof of the barn, landing on the concrete floor below. HSE found little had been provided to protect workers from falls.

As well as fracturing two vertebrae in his lower back, requiring a brace to be worn for two months, he suffered a broken wrist which had to be pinned and a bruised heel. He returned to work after six months but no longer works in construction, and has been left with some restricted movement in his wrist.

Leamington Spa Magistrates Court was told today (21 Nov) the company and its managing director, John Dunmore, were aware the roof was fragile and verbally warned employees to be careful, but did not ensure that the job was properly planned or carried out safely.

HSE found equipment provided for accessing and working on the fragile roof was not suitable, and four employees were working unsafely using single scaffold boards and crawl boards without guardrails or harnesses, and at times stepping on the roof itself.
No guardrails were in place around the roof perimeter to prevent falls from the edge, and no measures to mitigate the consequences of a fall through the fragile roof were in use, such as fall arrest harnesses, netting, or soft landing systems.

The injured man and another colleague were both working for the firm for the first time that day but neither had been given proper instruction or training for working at height.

D & R Maintenance Solutions Ltd of Cross Vane, Penalt, Monmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £3,357 costs.

Mr John Dunmore, 54, of Cross Vane, Penalt, Monmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,357 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Luke Messenger said:

“D & R Maintenance Solutions Limited, and Mr John Dunmore, its managing director, had received relevant previous verbal and written advice from HSE regarding work on fragile roofs but failed to take basic precautions to prevent falls.

“As a result, an employee was injured on his first day with the company. Considering he fell 4.5 metres, he was fortunate not to suffer more serious or even fatal injuries.

“The supervision of new employees was inadequate, despite the risks from work at height being widely known.

“It is the biggest single cause of serious injury in construction, with falls through fragile surfaces accounting for a fifth of these.

“Work at height must be properly planned and carried out safely, particularly when working on or near fragile roofs. Staff need to have the right equipment, receive correct training and supervision and safe operating procedures should be in place.”

For further information on HSE’s work and advice for roof workers, go to www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/roofwork.htm

Notes to Editors

  1.  The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe, and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment in accordance with regulation 7.”
  3. Section 37 (1) of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

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