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BUILDING OWNER PROSECUTED AFTER TRIPLE ROOF FALL

Three workers fall through rooflights in three incidents in three weeks

Building owner Bizspace Investments Ltd has been prosecuted after three workers fell through skylights at the same industrial unit on three separate occasions. One of the men has been left paralysed.

Warrington Crown Court heard that a Bizspace caretaker fell through a fragile rooflight while cleaning guttering on 20 March 2007 suffering multiple rib fractures and severe bruising.

A second Bizspace employee was sent to take photographs of the scene and whilst doing so he fell through a different skylight. He landed feet-first on a mezzanine floor and miraculously escaped injury.

Three weeks later an employee of Massey Roofing and Building Contractors was sent to repair the rooflights and fell more than 4m. He sustained severe spinal injuries, leading to him being paralysed from the waist down.

‘Astonishing’ that preventive action not taken

Bizspace and Massey Roofing and Building Contractors, were prosecuted by HSE for putting workers’ lives at risk. Bizspace Investments Ltd, of London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £9,000.

Anthony Massey pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3(1) and (in view of his bankrupt status) received a conditional discharge. He will not be fined provided he does not commit a further offence in the next twelve months.

Martin Heywood, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“It is astonishing that virtually the same incident was allowed to happen on three separate occasions. A man was sent onto a roof without safety equipment, despite two caretakers falling through skylights less than a month earlier.

As a result, the worker is likely to need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. If the project had been properly planned, using appropriate equipment for work at height, then all three workers would have remained uninjured.

More workplace deaths are caused by falls from height than anything else but companies continue to allow workers to balance dangerously on roofs. It is vital lessons are learnt from this tragic case.”

Comment

The ‘lessons’ from this case is that there are still many contractors and building owners/occupiers who are either unaware of the risk posed by fragile rooflight or who are just failing to implement sensible precautions.

Gutter cleaning on industrial roofs will often take the workman close to fragile roofs and rooflights and therefore requires careful planning and execution.

This incident also suggests that replacing rooflights from below will usually be the safest option.

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