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Preston solar panel firm sentenced over roof fall death

Date:
30 January 2015

A Preston-based company, which installs solar panels, has been fined £45,000 following the death of a worker who fell through a barn roof.

Gregorz Sobko had been working on the roof of a cowshed when one of the clear plastic panels, designed to let in light, gave way. The 34-year-old from Southport fell five metres to the concrete floor below and died in hospital ten days later.

Eco Generation Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at Tower View Farm in Hutton on 15 November 2011 after an investigation found the company had failed to provide vital safety equipment.

Preston Crown Court heard today (30 January 2015) that the company had been hired to fit solar panels to the flat roof on the cowshed, which was about 20 metres wide by 60 metres long.

Each worker had only been given two wooden planks, known as youngmans boards, to stand on while they worked, despite there being dozens of fragile plastic panels on the roof.

Mr Sobko had been fitting a solar panel just over a metre away from one of the fragile roof panels when he accidentally stepped on it and fell through the roof.

The court was told there were several measures Eco Generation could have taken to protect workers, such installing netting under the panels, placing protective covers over them or putting up barriers.

The HSE investigation found the company had installed netting under some of the panels but not under the one the worker fell through.

Eco Generation Ltd, of Watkin Lane in Lostock Hall, was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay £20,515 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Chris Smith said:

“Gregorz tragically lost his life because his employer failed to make sure basic safety measures were in place to protect workers.

“The risk of people falling through fragile roofs in well known, and the fact that Eco Generation installed netting under a small part of the roof shows the company was aware of the dangers. However, this didn’t even come close to what was needed to protect the workers.

“The youngmans boards provided were entirely unsuitable and instead a proper working platform or safety barriers should have been erected on the roof.

“It is vital firms carrying out work on roofs take the risks seriously and put measures in place to protect their employees, otherwise we will continue to see the needless deaths of workers like Gregorz.”

Information on preventing falls from height is available 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 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
  3.  Regulation 9(2) 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; or where a risk of a person at work falling remains despite the measures taken under the preceding provisions of this regulation, take suitable and sufficient measures to minimise the distances and consequences of his fall.”
  4.  HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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