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    INDUSTRIAL ROOFWORK REFURBISHMENT PROSECUTION

    Proceedings follow death and failure to appointment competent contractor

    A firm specialising in the refurbishment and fit out of industrial units throughout London and the South East of England has been ordered to pay almost £90k after a workman fell to his death from the roof of an industrial unit in Hayes, London in July 2007. The sub-contractor carrying out the work was also prosecuted.

    Open Contracts Ltd appointed contractor Malcolm Dunn to carry out the work despite his little knowledge or experience of this type of roofwork. The evidence presented to the court revealed a “basic failure to plan the work adequately”.

    Paul Morrissey, aged 57, of Cardiff, fell to his death while working to replace old rooflights in an industrial unit. He cut the bolts securing a rooflight, intending to replace it with a new rooflight and in doing so fell 7m to the concrete floor below.

    It is not known what caused him to fall. Removal of the fixings securing the rooflight meant that only slight pressure would have caused the rooflight to give way beneath him. There was no one else on the roof at the time and nothing to break his fall. He died at the scene.

    Dangers of working on fragile roofs well known

    The investigation by HSE found that the contractor appointed to carry out the work had little knowledge or experience of this type of roofwork. There was also evidence that there was a basic failure to plan the work adequately.

    HSE Inspector, Giles Meredith, said:

    “The dangers of working on fragile roofs are well known and yet this senseless waste of life continues. This incident was all too familiar. It is vital that anybody planning or carrying out roofwork of this nature has the right experience and manages the risks involved.

    Whoever is responsible for selecting contractors needs to ensure that the people they get in know what they are doing. In this case, the provision of safety nets would have kept Paul Morrissey alive.”

    Open Contracts Ltd, of The Chandlery, Poole Road, Woking, Surrey, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching regulations 4(1), 5 and 9(2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £29,757.

    Sub-contractor, Malcolm Dunn, of Caerau Park Road, Cardiff, who was trading as 3D Coatings, pleaded guilty to breaching regulations 5, 6(3) and 9(2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was fined £2,000 with no costs.

    He was also ordered to pay this within two years or face a custodial sentence in the event of default of payment.

    Comment

    Falls through fragile surfaces, particularly industrial fibre cement roofs and rooflights, has been a major cause of construction fatal falls for over 60 years.

    The proportion of such deaths has been falling over the last 15 years due to advances in precautions e.g. safety nets, and the elimination of fragile materials on new and refurbished structures.

    However, there are thousands of structures which still contain fragile roofs and it is vital that clients and contractors properly assess, plan and manage the work.

    It is best, where practicable, to avoid working or near fragile materials. There are now rooflight replacement systems available which allow such work to be undertaken safely from beneath the roof.

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