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SPECIALIST CONTRACTOR FINED OVER JOIST FALL INCIDENT

Prosecution highlights roof space risk to electricians and other trades

Electrical and mechanical contractor Roberts and Prowse (Swindon) Ltd has been fined after an apprentice electrician sustained serious back injuries when he fell through a ceiling while working in roof space of a Swindon youth centre in February 2010.

Magistrates heard that the injured man was undertaking electrical installation work when he stumbled from a narrow timber walkway and fell onto a plasterboard ceiling that gave way under his weight. He managed to grab hold of a timber joist which also gave way leaving him to fall over 5m to the floor below.

The apprentice sustained three fractures to his vertebrae as well as cuts and bruising. His injuries meant he was unable to work for two months.

Failure to make a specific risk assessment

Roberts and Prouse (Swindon) Ltd, of Barnfield Crescent, Exeter pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to the fall. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £5,156 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Damien Milbourne, said:

“Richard sustained serious injuries in the fall, but he could easily have been killed as a result of his employer’s negligence.

There was a failure by Roberts and Prowse to make a specific risk assessment for the work in the loft of the building. They also failed to ensure measures were put in place that would have prevented employees falling through the ceiling where they were working. Richard and others were left to work on and near exposed joists without suitable platforms or coverings or guardrails.

Working at height presents clear risks, as the company should be only too aware, and it could and should have done more to protect its workforce.”

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