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Family farming business sentenced after worker injured in roof fall

Date:
13 May 2014

A Perthshire farming business has been fined for safety failings after a worker was injured when he fell more than three metres through a roof light of a cattle barn.

James Bridge, then aged 18, was clearing roof gutters at Shealwalls Farm, one of four farms run by family partnership Messrs Finlay McGowan in the Alyth area, when the incident occurred on 15 August 2012.

Perth Sheriff Court was told today (13 May) that after being lifted by a colleague onto the roof in a basket attached to a telehandler forklift truck, Mr Bridge walked to the far end of the roof, stepping over a PVC roof light he knew was fragile and would not take his weight.

But on his return he did not notice the roof light, which broke under his weight when he stepped on it. He fell more than three metres and landed on the concrete passageway below with his lower legs caught through a feed barrier.

He was taken to hospital with a fractured skull, bleeding inside the skull, bruising to his face and a laceration above his left eye. He was discharged the following day and has since made a full recovery from his injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the workers had not been issued with instructions and their work was unsupervised. Neither of the men had been trained to work at height, let alone on fragile roof surfaces.

The investigation concluded Messrs Finlay McGowan failed to properly plan and appropriately supervise work being carried out at height, and ensure that the work was carried out in a safe manner.

Messrs Finlay McGowan, of Incheoch Farm, Alyth, Perthshire, were fined £12,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Michelle Gillies, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. The precautions needed to prevent falls from height are basic, inexpensive and easily implemented such as using crawling boards to spread weight over a large surface and shield fragile roof sheeting or simply by using a mobile working platform.

“Messrs Finlay McGowan should have carried out a risk assessment before work started. This would have identified hazards as well as measures that would have eliminated or reduced the risks to the health and safety of the partnership’s employees.”

Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights account for almost a fifth of all the fatal incidents 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 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 press.hse.gov.uk

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