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Building firm pays price for teenager’s loft fall

Date:
4 September 2014

A 17-year-old labourer from south-west London had a narrow escape after surviving a four-metre fall through a hole in a loft with only cuts and bruises.

However, his employer, More Than Lofts Ltd of Worcester Park, Sutton, suffered a financial penalty when it was prosecuted (3 Sept) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for safety failings that led to the incident.

Westminster magistrates were told the young worker was part of a team converting the loft at a property in Hammersmith when the incident happened on 6 June 2013.

He stepped on some fragile material that covered a void in the floor and fell four metres, landing on a staircase. The worker, from Morden, who does not wish to be named, suffered no significant injuries.

HSE’s investigation found there were several uncovered or poorly-covered fragile surfaces in the loft space on site. It said More Than Lofts Ltd had failed to take suitable action to prevent falls, such as using platforms or robust covers for the holes in the loft floor.

The court also heard that the company had been served with a Prohibition Notice by HSE in June 2010 halting all work underway on a loft conversion because of the immediate dangers to workers from the lack of safety measures.

More Than Lofts Ltd, of Central Road, Worcester Park, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £729 in full costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Gavin Pugh said:

“This young man had an extremely lucky escape from what could have been a fatal or severe injury in a fall of that distance. He and his co-workers were put in unnecessary danger by the careless approach to safety demonstrated by More Than Lofts Ltd.

“The company had ample materials on site to cover over fragile surfaces during work on this loft conversion but failed to do so.  It also clearly disregarded the lessons that should have been learned from the previous enforcement notice about working at height.

“Companies that skirt around safety put lives at risk. The hazards presented by working on or close to fragile surfaces are widely known in the industry and there are numerous deaths and injuries to workers as a result of safety failures every year.”

HSE’s Construction Division is carrying out a nationwide safety initiative on loft conversions during this year, focusing on falls from height and asbestos. Inspectors are making site visits and giving briefings to contractors with the aim of tackling poor standards in loft conversion work and also to raise awareness of the risks that this work involves.

Information about working at height can be found on the HSE website: http://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 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where it is not reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without passing across or near, or working on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar means of support or protection are provided and used so that any foreseeable loading is supported by such supports or borne by such protection.”

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