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    CLIENT FAILED TO CHECK CONTRACTOR COMPETENCE

    Contractor and client prosecuted after workman falls 7m through roof

    A construction client, Flurocarbon Company Ltd of Hertfordshire, has been ordered to pay over £10k in fines and prosecution costs after the employee of a contractor fell through a factory rooflight.

    The company admitted contravening CDM 2007 Regulation 4(1)(a) after failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the contractor engaged to undertake the work was competent to do so.

    The employer of the injured man, Hartog Hutton Ltd, was ordered to pay £15k after employee David Langdon (aged 63) fractured his vertebrae when he fell 7m on to plant and machinery below on Christmas Eve 2008. He has not worked since the incident.

    Clients face risk of prosecution for CDM 2007 failures

    HSE Inspector John Berezansky said:

    “This incident was entirely avoidable and should not have happened. Working at height is one of the most obvious and well-known dangers for those involved in repairing or maintenance of buildings.

    “Mr Langdon is lucky to be alive. More than 4,000 employees suffered serious injury after falling from height last year and 15 were killed. Employers need to plan ahead and assess potential risks before carrying out any work at height.”

    “HSE will continue to prosecute companies that fail to carry out their duties, which includes both employers and firms hiring contractors to do specialist work for them.”

    Comment

    Client CDM duties in respect of competence and project management arrangements are onerous and require positive action.

    We can expect to read of many more prosecutions involving construction clients in the coming years as CDM 2007 and Corporate Manslaughter cases progress through the judicial system.

    On larger projects (>30 days) the client can rely on advice and assistance from his appointed CDM Coordinator. On smaller projects client duties are the same and clients need to think carefully about the support required to assess competence and project management arrangements. 

    There are now systems available which enable the repair of fragile roofs and rooflights to be undertaken by working from below the roof

    Clients procuring such work may conclude that, where practicable, working from below is the safest option to avoid falls, injury and prosecution.

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