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FIRM PROSECUTED AFTER FATAL FALL OF DIRECTOR

Fall through fragile asbestos cement roof highlights need for further action 

Allenbrooks Developments Ltd, a business unit rental firm in Norfolk, has been prosecuted after a joint owner of the business died when he fell through a fragile roof at one of its properties on 6th April 2010.

Keith and Nigel Ragan, joint owners of Allenbrooks Developments Ltd, were replacing roof lights on a business unit in Wymondham, Norfolk along with employee, Stephen Cullum, age 52 when Keith fell 10m to his death through an asbestos cement roof sheet.

Edge protection was in place at the roof edge but there was no safe working platform nor safety nets/harness systems to arrest a fall. The men walked along the line of the roof purlins.

HSE initiated proceeedings against the company in view of the risk to employee Stephen Cullum.

Standards for working on fragile roofs ‘well-established’

Allenbrooks Developments Ltd from Allenbrooks Way, Wymondham, Norfolk pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £2,320.

After the hearing at Norwich Magistrates’ Court today, HSE Inspector Anthony Brookes said:

“The death of Keith Ragan is a tragedy which has left a family without a loved one. It was only by chance the other two men did not fall through the roof as well.

HSE would like to stress it is prosecuting the company because of the poor safety standards in place and the risk exposed to its employee at work.

Working at height without any safety precautions in place is not acceptable. Falls from height are among the biggest causes of workplace deaths in the UK.

Standards for working on fragile roofs are well-established and extensive guidance is available from HSE.”

Comment

The penalty in this case suggests that magistrates were unconvinced as to the public interest value in this prosecution – where a director of the offending company lost his life. 

The standards regarding working on or near fragile roofs are ‘well established’. However, the problem is that many owners/occupiers of industrial units and contractors remain unaware of the standards. 

The continuing incidence of fatal falls through fragile roofs and roof lights suggests that much more needs to be done regarding awareness and proactive enforcement.  

Promotion of replacing rooflights from below would be a good starting point.

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