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    Roofing contractor prosecuted over public protection failure

    A grandmother and her 21-month-old grandson were scalded by hot bitumen when a poorly secured ladder slipped on a project at the home of the grandmother in Reigate, Surrey on 9 June 2013.

    The grandmother required skin grafts on both hands and a foot and burns to her head and face. The young boy received burns to his chest, forehead, face, lips and under his right arm. Both needed extensive hospital treatment.

    Redhill Magistrates heard (25 Nov) that John Terrell was contracted to felt a flat roof and was using bitumen that he melted at ground level before it was carried to the roof by ladder.

    He and a colleague had already climbed the ladder several times before the ladder slipped as the grandmother, with her grandson in her arms, approached the workers to ask if they wanted a cup of tea. The bucket fell and the bitumen spilled directly on top of them.

    HSE found that the ladder was not been secured to prevent it slipping and was in a “poor condition” with missing or badly worn rubber feet. The court was told that insufficient measures were taken to prevent the slip and spill. It was a “wholly unnecessary incident”.

    Unsecured ladder with visible defects caused ‘horrific burns’

    John Terrell, of Everest Close, High Wycombe, was fined £1,335 and ordered to pay a further £1,100 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

    After the hearing, HSE Inspector Amanda Huff said:

    “Extreme caution must be taken at all times when working with bitumen because it can be incredibly harmful – as the grandmother and her young grandson can sadly testify.

    John Terrell didn’t take extreme care. He was using a ladder with clearly visible defects that wasn’t properly secured, and they sustained horrific burns as a result.

    Members of the public must be kept out of harm’s way when dangerous materials are being used. The ladder issues aside, the incident could also have been avoided had they been told to stay at a safe distance.”

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