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Firm fined after worker falls eleven feet through roof

Date:
18 September 2013

A Walsall maintenance firm has been fined after an employee was seriously injured when he fell 11 feet through a fragile roof during poorly-managed roof work in Nottingham.

Stephen Bassford, 58, from Nottingham, fractured his pelvis, wrenched his shoulder and sustained severe gashes to his face and left elbow in the incident on 4 July 2012. He required extensive physiotherapy and stitches and was unable to work for four months.

Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd was prosecuted today (18 September) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into the fall identified safety failings.

Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Bassford was working alone for the company at the former Shepherd Special School, on Harvey Road. He was boarding over broken rooflights on the main building as well as a fragile roof canopy that covered part of the playground.

Heavy rain caused Mr Bassford to stop work and as he was collecting his tools, he slipped and fell through the fragile perspex roof canopy and plunged to the concrete floor below.

HSE found that Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment or properly plan or supervise the work.

The firm had highlighted the need for a scaffold and harness system in its quotation for the work, but neither was put in place.

Magistrates were told that had simple measures been in place to prevent or mitigate a fall, such as scaffolding or a harness; or steps taken to prevent Mr Bassford working near, or on a fragile surface, then the incident could have been avoided.

Mr Bassford had worked for the company for 18 years, but had never received any training or instructions for working safely at height.

Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd, of Green Lane, Walsall, was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay £9,732 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Frances Bailey said:

"Mr Bassford sustained serious injuries and could have died as a result of the fall. He had been working alone at the derelict school, so it was fortunate that he was able to call the emergency services himself after the incident occurred.

"The dangers of working at height and near fragile materials are well known, yet incidents of this kind occur all too often. This fall could have easily been prevented if Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd had properly assessed the risks and put simple measures in place to minimise them. The implementation of an appropriate plan would also have ensured that anyone undertaking the work was properly supervised and protected.

"This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all companies of their legal duties to manage safety and provide the protection required to safeguard workers from falls."

Poor standards and unsafe work on building sites in the East and West Midlands are being targeted this month. Local HSE inspectors will be part of a national team making more than 2,000 unannounced visits to construction sites across the country. They will be checking to ensure high-risk activities, such as working at height are being properly managed.

Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

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 should make sure that work at height is properly planned and appropriately supervised."
  3. Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations, states: "Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury"

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