Fractured spine lands firm with £150,000 fine

A construction company has been fined £150,000 after a worker fell through roof sheeting while demolishing a farm building.

An employee of Northern Structures was removing roof sheets from a timber-frame farm building when he fell 4m through one of the asbestos cement roof sheets onto the ground below, suffering a fractured spine.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that, while a risk assessment and method statement were in place to remove the roof sheets from below, the method was changed to remove them from above.

See also: FW Academy – Falls from height

It was during this process on 20 September last year that the worker fell through a roof sheet.

At South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, Northern Structures, of Amble, Northumberland, pleaded guilty to breaching Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The company, which manufactures steel-framed buildings, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay  £791.70 in court costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Loren Wilmot said: “Suitable and sufficient measures should have been in place through the use of alternative access equipment.

“This would have negated the need for the employee to be on the roof of the building, therefore eliminating the risk of a fall from height through the roof sheets.”

Tom Price, NFU farm safety and transport adviser, said: “The risk of death and serious injury from a fall from height and the need for tight control is very clear, as shown in this HSE prosecution.

“Falling from heights happens quite frequently because some people don’t take the time to stop and think about the task.”

Key messages to promote safe work at height

  • Work at height is a major cause of fatalities in agriculture. There are also significant numbers of non-fatal incidents giving rise to life-changing injuries.
  • Avoid work at height where you can; if not, use suitable work equipment or other measures to prevent falls.
  • Work to remove or replace fragile roofing materials should be done from underneath the roof using suitable access equipment such as a scissor lift (mobile elevating work platform).
  • Roof work and work involving fragile materials is specialist tasks and is best left to professional contractors.
  • Farms should check the work has been planned and workers on site are following the plan.

The HSE website contains free guidance on safe work at height

Source: NFU