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SUPERVISOR FINED FOR SANCTIONING UNSAFE SYSTEM

Failure to consult manager lands supervisor in court after workman fell

HSE has prosecuted a site supervisor after a co-worker was left paralysed following a 10m fall from the roof of a Tyneside warehouse in September 2011. 

Philip Giles, aged 24, fell through an unprotected and fragile roof after supervisor Paul Burke allowed workers to remove cement sheets from a position on the roof contrary to the company policy.

Durham Crown Court heard that Mr Giles and colleagues were removing roof sheets by gaining access from below via a scissor lift. When this method “became difficult” Paul Burke allowed the workers to go onto the roof itself but without the knowledge of his contracts manager.

During the work Mr Giles stood on a loose skylight panel which gave way under him. He fell around 10 metres to the ground below.

The employer identified the roofs as fragile and agreed a system of work where its employees used scissor lifts, removing the roof sheets from the underside. HSE found the company agreed system was safe but by changing it, Mr Burke had sanctioned an unsafe system of work.

The company was unaware of the changed way of working and Mr Burke had failed to consult with them.

Supervisors responsibile for ensuring work carried out in a safe manner

Paul Joseph Burke, 56, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching Regulation 4(1)(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 between 4 August and 5 September 2011 by failing to properly supervise work at height and make sure it was carried out safely. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £9,765.88 costs.

HSE Inspector Keith Partington added:

“This incident has had a devastating and life-changing impact on Mr Giles and his family.

Mr Burke allowed some of the work to be undertaken on the roof without any measures in place to guard against falls and injury. He was not authorised to make changes of this nature and also failed to discuss the changes with his employer.

Those who supervise work at height have a responsibility to ensure that it is carried out in a manner which is safe and which guards against the risk of injury from a fall. Such injuries, if not fatal, may result in a lifelong disability for the injured person.”

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