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Dorset contractor in court for neglecting safety risks

Date:
4 July 2013

An agricultural engineering contractor has been fined for exposing workers to serious risk after an employee fell four metres through the fragile roof of a farm building in Dorset.

David Clark was one of a team of workers employed by contractor Michael Fry to replace a barn roof at a farm in Winfrith, Dorset. Mr Clark was working off a crawling board on top of a lean-to building adjacent to the barn when he stepped off onto the fragile roof which collapsed beneath him, sending him crashing to the ground below.

He fractured three vertebrae, broke a rib, and was unable to work for nearly two months. He has since retrained for a different career.

The incident, on 14 December 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and yesterday (3 July) HSE prosecuted his employer, Michael Fry, of Martinstown, near Dorchester, at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard Mr Fry was hired to replace the barn roof at the farm. Part way through the job, there was a problem with the mobile elevated work platform (MEWP), making it difficult to access the main roof.

The lean-to building next to the barn had a fragile asbestos cement roof, which was not being replaced as part of the contract. Workers had to walk across the roof of the lean-to on crawling boards to access the main roof. Mr Clark was walking across the fragile roof of the lean-to when it gave way and he fell to the ground below.

Michael John Fry, of New Grove Barn, Martinstown, Dorchester, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,440.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector James Powell said:

"The dangers of working at height are well known, yet poor safety standards and lack of safeguards still exist among some contractors.

"In this case, the work was not carried out in a safe fashion. Mr Clark and his fellow employees were working on a fragile roof and yet Michael Fry had neglected to properly plan and supervise the work in order to minimise the risks of falls.

"For the last ten years or so there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents involving falls through fragile roofing materials on agricultural buildings. This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all contractors to ensure working at height is properly planned and robust safety precautions are put in place.

"Employers have a legal duty to manage safety and failing to do can end in tragedy."

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)(c) 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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