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FRAGILE ROOF FATALITY INQUEST

Coroner hears that roof fall death was “wholly preventable”

A inquest in North Wales has heard that a 29 year-old workman fell to his death through a farm roof because safety precautions had not been taken. He died of brain injury in hospital 11 days after falling in April 2008. The Coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The roof was being repaired following storm damage. It was not established whether he fell through an opening in the roof or from the roof edge. The roof was fragile. The jury heard from expert witness Chris Wilcox that the death was “wholly preventable”.

The Coroner agreed and said. “safety measures could have been taken like a safety net, scaffolding, or working from the cherry picker caged platform”.

Comment: In 2008 there were 7 deaths during construction work involving falls through or from fragile roofs. HSE are planning to take further action during 2009 to target such work. The legal, financial and reputational risk for clients has increased significantly since the introduction of CDM 2007 and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. 

The effect of these statutes is that a fatal fall from an existing building will put the client into the spotlight for investigation alongside contractors. In some cases the client may be the insurer or others commissioning the work. Clients should therefore take a keen interest in how such work is secured, planned and carried out.

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