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Builder fined after worker injured in roof fall

Date:
28 February 2014

A builder has been fined for safety failings after a worker was injured when he fell through the fragile roof of a cowshed.

James Coe, 25, from Strathaven, was one of several people employed by John Watson Leggate to repair the roof at a local farm when the incident occurred on 26 August 2010.

Hamilton Sheriff Court was told yesterday (27 February) that Mr Coe had been lifted up to the cowshed roof after standing on a silage cutter fitted to a telehandler.

He stepped off the cutter and onto the roof, which was made of asbestos sheets that were just 6mm thick, before walking across it towards the ridge to access the opposite side.

There were no supporting timbers or boards and suddenly and without warning the roof sheets on which he was standing collapsed inwards, causing him to fall. He struck tensioned wire underneath before landing on the wire.

Mr Coe was taken to hospital with bruising to his ribs and a cut to his head. He was discharged the following day and made a full recovery within weeks.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that he had alerted his workers to the dangers of the roof and its fragility, but that the advice given was to use timbers and boards to spread their weight. This method is viewed by HSE as woefully inadequate and out of date.

In addition, the use of the telehandler and silage cutter provided a significant risk of falling and exposed the men to risk every time it was used to gain access to the roof.

The investigation also revealed John Leggate was not continually on site, attending only periodically to monitor the progress of the works, and that the instructions and advice that had been given to the men were inadequate. The men themselves were not competent and trained for the task.

HSE concluded that John Leggate had failed to properly plan and appropriately supervise work being carried out at height, and to ensure that the work was carried out in a safe manner.

John Watson Leggate, 73, of The Ward, Strathaven, was fined £750 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Graeme McMinn, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. Falls from height remain one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and Mr Coe was extremely fortunate not to have been more severely injured.

“The risks associated with work at height, and fragile roofs in particular, are very well known, and the HSE has produced substantial amounts of free advice to assist duty holders to comply with the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.”

Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights account for almost a fifth of all the fatal accidents which result from a fall from height in the construction industry. On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light. Many others suffer a permanent disabling injury.

For more information about working at height log onto the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/index.htm

Notes to editors

1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation

3. Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is— (a) properly planned; (b) appropriately supervised; and (c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.”

4. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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