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Company and director fined after worker fell through roof

Date:
21 March 2013

A County Durham firm and a director have been fined for safety failings after a worker was seriously injured when he fell around 3.5 metres through the fragile roof of a barn he was cleaning.

The 25-year-old, from Hartlepool, was one of three labourers employed by Tees Valley Compost Cleaning Services Ltd to work at Murton Hall Farm, Hurworth Burn, on 25 July 2011.

They were instructed by company director Michael Andrew Thompson to clear debris from the roof of the barn that had gathered during compost cleaning activities.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard today (21 March 2013) that the worker was working at the highest point of two softwood boards that had been placed onto the corrugated sheet cement roof. The boards were necessary because cement sheets are well known for being fragile and many workers have fallen through such roofs.

Using a brush, he pushed the debris down from the roof towards the second labourer, who was also working on the boards. He in turn then pushed it down to the third labourer, who was on an access platform, who then pushed it onto the floor.

At the end of the day’s work, the worker stepped off the boards onto the cement roof, which gave way and he fell through it. He fell around 3.5 metres and landed on an agricultural mower in the shed below.

He fractured the bone at the base of his spine and was off work for two weeks.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the wooden boards being used were not fitted with any kind of edge protection and there were no other safety measures, such as safety netting or guard rails in use to prevent or lessen the impact of any fall from height.

Tees Valley Compost Cleaning Services Ltd, of Embleton Hall Farm, Hurworth Burn, Wingate, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,506.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Michael Andrew Thompson, 47, also of Embleton Hall Farm, Hurworth Burn, Wingate, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £2,000.

After the hearing HSE inspector Sally Brecken, said:

"The worker is lucky to be alive because falls from such a height can often be fatal. He did however suffer very serious injuries in this incident, which would not have happened if adequate safeguards had been in place.

"The company did very little to prevent falls from the roof or to reduce the risk of serious injury in the event of a fall.

"Clear guidance on working at height is available from HSE and it is regrettable that the company failed to follow this."

The latest figures show that 18 people died as a result of a fall in a workplace in Great Britain annually and almost 4,000 suffered a major injury. Information on preventing falls is available 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 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: "Every employer shall ensure that when work is carried out at height, suitable and sufficient measures are taken to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, employees falling a distance liable to cause injury."
  3. Section 37 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… 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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