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Firm sentenced after worker’s roof fall

Date:
4 June 2014

A Glasgow company has been fined for safety failings after a worker narrowly escaped major injury after falling five metres through a fragile roof light.

David Jack, then aged 53, was working on a roof at John Watson and Co Ltd’s premises with a colleague when the incident happened on 8 November 2011.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard today (4 June) that Mr Jack was sub-contracted by a regular contractor for the company and had been painting the roof when he fell through a fragile fibreglass roof light into factory premises below, a printing machine breaking his fall before he hit  the ground. He sustained a cut leg needing stitches, blunt force abdominal injury and a sprained wrist resulting in an overnight stay in hospital. He returned to work two weeks later.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed a number of failures in the company’s management of health and safety.

The court heard that Mr Jack, a painter and decorator, had been sub-contracted by a regular contractor of John Watson and Co to carry out the work on the roof.

On the day of the incident, Mr Jack and an apprentice employed by John Watson & Co accessed the five-metre-high roof via a ladder, carrying the forty 20kg tins of paint needed to complete the job. The workers had been told about the presence of fragile roof lights but there were no measures in place to prevent them falling from the roof edge or falling through the roof lights.

HSE Inspectors found that the company’s health and safety consultants had not been asked for advice on safe working at height. In addition, John Watson & Co failed to ensure their contractor carried out a suitable risk assessment to identify the safety measures required to control the risk of falls.

After the incident, HSE issued a Notice prohibiting work on the roof with immediate effect. The company complied with this and later employed a roofing contractor to carry out the necessary repairs.

John Watson & Co Ltd, of Kyle Street, Glasgow, was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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

“John Watson & Co Ltd made no efforts to ensure that their contractor took the necessary safety precautions to prevent falls through fragile roof lights or from exposed open edges on the roof.

“Simple measures such as using barriers to prevent access to fragile areas or installing coverings over the roof lights could easily have prevented this worker getting injured.

“The workers were exposed to unacceptable risks of falling from the roof or through the roof lights for several days. This incident could very easily have had much more severe consequences.”

On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light – accounting for almost a fifth of all the fatalities caused by a fall from height in the construction industry. 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. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc.Act 1974 states “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

4. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

5. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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