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Council prosecuted after school caretaker injured in fall

Date:
18 March 2013

A local council has been found guilty of breaching health and safety law after a school caretaker was injured in a fall from a shed roof in Oldham.

The 61-year-old, who has asked not to be named, injured his knees, ankles, neck and right hand in the fall at Beever Primary School on Moorby Street on 27 July 2010. He was unable to return to work full time following the incident, and has now had to retire.

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to take sufficient measures to prevent the fall.

During a two-day trial, Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the caretaker had been carrying out maintenance work to the roof of the shed at the school, which is used to store equipment for a neighbouring children’s centre.

The roof had recently been vandalised and the felt had been ripped off, causing it to leak. The worker had climbed onto the roof and was attempting to place plastic sheeting on it when he tripped and fell backwards. He landed on a concrete floor three metres below.

A HSE investigation found the injured worker had started working as a caretaker at the school in 2004, six years before the incident, but had not received any training on working at height.

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council was found guilty of breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The local authority, of West Street in Oldham, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £12,260 in prosecution costs on 18 March 2013.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Alex Farnhill said:

"It’s disappointing that the caretaker had been working at the school for six years without receiving any training on how to work safely at height.

"Using a stepladder or carrying out other work above the ground was part of his job, and it should therefore have been a council priority to make sure he could do this safely.

"Work at height is one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths and injuries in the UK, and this case should act as a warning to employers about the dangers."

Information on preventing workplace 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: "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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