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FATAL FALL AFTER FAILURE TO ACT ON HSE ADVICE

Contractor prosecution follows worker death two years after fragile roof fall

J Mills (Contractors) Ltd of Manchester has been fined £145,000 after a workman fell 10m through a fragile fibre cement roof in March 2007. He died two years later as a consequence of his injuries.

The company failed to implement safety measures prevent 32-year-old Alan Kerwin falling whilst he was replacing a rooflight on a warehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne. Mr Kerwin sustained serious injuries, including a fractured skull, and developed post-traumatic epilepsy. He died from an epileptic seizure in April 2009.

The incident occurred at Kayley Industrial Estate where Mr Kerwin was working a Saturday shift on the roof with two co-workers when he stood on a roof sheet which fractured. J Mills (Contractors) Ltd failed to carry out an assessment of work at height or put any safety measures in place to protect the workman.

HSE previously informed manager of precautions required 

The court heard that the line manager for Mr Kerwin received advice from HSE just one week before the incident. An HSE inspector explained to how to work safely on fragile roofs, but this advice was not acted upon.

J Mills (Contractors) Ltd, of Urmston, admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £145,000 and ordered to pay £7,700 in prosecution costs on 31 October 2011.

HSE investigating inspector David Norton said:

“This is a tragic case in which someone has lost their father as a result of an entirely avoidable incident.

Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of serious injury. But Mr Kerwin was allowed to walk across a roof without anything in place to stop him falling.

Just one week before, Mr Kerwin’s line manager was advised by a colleague of mine about the dangers of working at height, and how to protect employees. If he had acted on this advice then I’m confident Mr Kerwin would still be alive today.”

Comment

Systems are now available to enable roof lights and fibre cement roof sheets to be replaced by MEWP from below the roof.

This approach could make a major contribution towards preventing the fatal falls and many other disabling injuries that are caused by falls through fragile surfaces each year.

If work is carried out beneath a roof the hazard of falling through the roof has been eliminated!

 

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