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Firms fined after worker is left paralysed by roof fall

Date:
9 July 2013

A construction company and a roofing contractor have been fined after a worker was left paralysed from the waist down when he plunged four metres through a hole in a roof at a Swindon building site.

Giovanni Mastrodomenico, 56, from Swindon, fell through a waterproof membrane into the unguarded hole while working at the Marlborough Park development in the town on 31 August 2011.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) yesterday (8 July) prosecuted his employer Tego Roofing Ltd, of Oxford, and Surrey-based principal contractor Wates Construction Ltd for safety failings relating to the incident.

Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Mastrodomenico was carrying out metalwork prior to the installation of a vent on the roof of the new apartment block. The hole he plunged through was where the vent was to be placed.

He fell four metres onto a concrete floor below, causing permanent injuries that have left him unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair.

An HSE investigation found that scaffolding under the hole inside the building had been removed because it was obstructing an emergency escape route, and that scaffolding planks had subsequently been placed over the hole instead.

However, these planks were in turn removed to allow workmen to lay a waterproof membrane over the hole in preparation for the vent to be installed. So there was nothing to in place to prevent or mitigate Mr Mastrodomenico’s fall.

The court was told that the risk assessment and method statement for the work was unsuitable and insufficient because it failed to refer to the installation process for the vent.

There was confusion about who the site supervisor was when the incident happened and, although the site manager had seen the roofers working near the hole, he did not stop the work or ensure the scaffolding boards were replaced.

HSE established that Tego Roofing failed to provide adequate supervision or instruction to its employees while working on the roof, and also that workers failed to identify the risk or warn others, including Mr Mastrodomenico, of the hazard created by the removal of the boards covering the hole.

Construction company Wates failed to plan, manage and monitor the work and did not ensure there was a risk assessment in place.

Tego Roofing Ltd, of Monument Business Park, Chalgrove, Oxford, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £9,460 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Wates Construction Ltd, of Station Approach, Leatherhead, Surrey, was fined £18,000 with costs of £11,127 after also pleading guilty to a separate breach of the same regulations.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Keiron Jones, said:

"Mr Mastrodomenico’s life and that of his family have been completely changed by the management failings on the site. Apart from the pain and suffering he has gone through, his employment opportunities are now restricted and he will never be able to walk again.

"Construction companies and their contractors must have proper plans in place to allow their employees to complete the job safely.

"As principal contractor, Wates failed to plan, manage and monitor the work, and ensure there was a risk assessment in place. Tego also failed in their duty to provide a risk assessment, ensure there was adequate supervision on-site and make sure there was a safe system of work for the installation of the vent.

"Falls from height are the biggest killer in the construction industry and last year alone more than 6,300 employees suffered major injuries following a fall. Working at height must always be properly planned."

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 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: "Every contractor shall plan, manage and monitor construction work carried out by him or under his control in a way which ensures that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health and safety."
  3. Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: "The principal contractor for a project shall (a) Plan, manage and monitor the construction phase in a way which ensures that, so far as reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health or safety."

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