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    Spreading weight on boards insufficient for fragile roof safety

    A builder has been fined after a workman was injured when he fell through the fragile roof of a cowshed. James Coe, aged 25, was one of several people repairing the roof in August 2010.

    Hamilton Sheriff Court was told (27 February) that Mr Coe had been lifted to the cowshed roof by standing on a silage cutter fitted to a telehandler. He stepped onto the fibre cement roof and walked towards the ridge to access the opposite side when without warning a roof sheet fractured causing him to fall.

    He was taken to hospital with bruising to his ribs and a cut to his head, discharged the following day and he made a full recovery within weeks.

    HSE investigators found that John Leggate alerted workers to the fragile roof danger and advised that timbers and boards should be used to spread their weight. HSE stated that this method is viewed by HSE as woefully inadequate and out of date.

    In addition, use of the telehandler and silage cutter provided a significant risk of falling and exposed the men to risk every time it was used to gain access to the roof.

    The investigation revealed that John Leggate only attended the site periodically to monitor the progress of the works, and that the instructions and advice that had been given to the men were inadequate. The men themselves were not competent and trained for the task.

    Extremely fortunate not to have been more severely injured

    John Watson Leggate, 73, of The Ward, Strathaven, was fined £750 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

    Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Graeme McMinn, said:

    “This was an entirely avoidable incident. Falls from height remain one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and Mr Coe was extremely fortunate not to have been more severely injured.

    The risks associated with work at height, and fragile roofs in particular, are very well-known, and the HSE has produced substantial amounts of free advice to assist duty holders to comply with the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.”

    Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights account for almost a fifth of all the fatal accidents which result from a fall from height in the construction industry. On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light.

    Many others suffer a permanent disabling injury.

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