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WORKMAN SURVIVED 10m FALL THROUGH ROOFLIGHT

Contractors fined over life-changing solar panel project roof fall

Two companies have been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when he fell 10m through a fragile rooflight onto a concrete floor at a Hertfordshire farm in December 2011.

Constantin-Iulian Pascu, aged 25, was working for NMH Property Services Ltd, installing solar panels at Bayford Hall Farm with Ipswich-based SEH Commercial Ltd. He suffered a fractured spine, broken pelvis and lacerations and was unable to walk unaided for four months. 

Mr Pascu and an electrician were carrying out final connection and commissioning of the PV system. Both men were carrying out checks at roof level when Mr Pascu accessed the roof and fell through a rooflight to the floor below. Hertford Magistrates Court heard (13 May) that safety netting had been installed beneath the roof but was removed when installation work was completed.

Before the fall and after the safety netting was removed an electrician fractured a rooflight at the other end of the building. HSE found that SEH site manager SEH examined the damage but he did not notice that the safety nets had been removed. The matter was not raised through the company near miss procedure.

Mr Pascu fell through the rooflight on the following day.

Lack of co-ordination between contractors

SEH Commercial Ltd of Ipswich was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £4,437 in costs after pleading guilty to failing to plan, manage and monitor the installation of solar panels on a fragile roof safely under Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

NMH Property Services Ltd of Orchard Close, Harwich, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,219 in costs after admitting breaching Regulation 9(2)(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Tony Mitchell said:

“Mr Pascu has suffered severe injuries but is fortunate to have escaped with his life. Fragile roofs are inherently dangerous. If the near miss the previous day had been properly followed up, then this incident could have been prevented. And had the nets remained in place then the consequences of a fall would have probably been much less severe.

SEH Commercial Ltd failed to follow their own near miss procedure and so missed an opportunity to prevent the incident. NMH Property Services should have checked to ensure fall mitigation was in place before accessing the roof. There also appeared to be a lack of co-ordination between contractors which would have been evident in the near miss incident.

All those involved in work on fragile roofs need to ensure that adequate fall prevention is, and remains, in place throughout the work.”

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