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UNSAFE CLEANING OF GUTTERS OVER MANY YEARS

Building occupier prosecuted after fragile roof fall during shutdown

Sarginsons Industries Ltd has been fined after a workman fell 5m through a fragile roof sheet while clearing gutters on 2 August 2013. He was “helping out” with cleaning and maintenance work during the factory shutdown when he was instructed to clean out the gutters.

Nuneaton Magistrates heard that the man accessed the gutters by ladder after first climbing onto and across a smaller fragile roof. He walked and crawled in the gutters alongside open edges and parallel to fragile roof sheets when he fell through a roof sheet.

He suffered fractured ribs, numbness in his left leg since the incident and ongoing mental anxiety. He is no longer able to drive and struggles with everyday tasks.

The court was told that no measures were in place to prevent or mitigate a fall e.g. netting on the underside of the roof, and that there was no safe access or working arrangements.

The company been cleaning gutters in this manner for many years.

Risk assessment conclusions not acted upon

Sarginsons Industries Ltd of  Coventry was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £899 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Cooper said:

“The danger posed by working at height, and in particular falling through fragile roof sheets, is well-known.

The company had a risk assessment that stated control measures would be needed for roof working, including creating a safe working platform with scaffold boards, or netting out beneath the roof sheets, as well as close supervision. However, none of this was acted upon.

Too many people are killed or injured as a result of poorly planned and organised roof work.”

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