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    Council and contractor partners in court over roofwork dangers

    Cornwall Council and two partners of a local building company TL Sobey have been fined for breaking safety law after one of the partners was seriously injured in a fall through a fragile roof.

    Andrew Sobey, of Launceston, broke his pelvis after plunging between 3-5m through a Council farm roof near Bude in August 2012.

    The injured man was prosecuted alongside his father Thomas Sobey for failing to ensure sufficient measures were in place to prevent the fall at the Cornwall Council farm.

    Truro Magistrates today heard that three men, including Andrew Sobey, were replacing the roof of the cow shed. Andrew was also overseeing the work when he fell through an asbestos cement to the concrete floor below, narrowly avoiding some metal rails.

    HSE found that

    • Competence – noone involved had any roofing qualifications;
    • Assessment – there was no risk assessment undertaken;
    • Controls – no safety measures in place to manage the risk; and
    • Training – workforce were untrained and inexperienced in working at height.

    The court heard the council was aware the roof was fragile and the work was a high risk activity. TL Sobey was engaged for the job even though they were general builders and not a roofing specialist.

    Client failed to check contractor ‘suitability’

    Cornwall Council was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £7,698 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

    Thomas Sobey, of Lower Trevell, Lewannick, near Launceston, was fined £6,000 with £7,782 costs after also pleading guilty to a separate breach of the same legislation.

    Andrew Sobey, of the same address as his father, admitted a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 costs.

    HSE Inspector Helena Allum, speaking after the hearing, said:

    “Andrew Sobey sustained serious injuries in a fall that he and his father could have prevented had they properly planned and assessed the roof work and put appropriate safety measures in place, such as a suitable work platform.

    They also failed to provide adequate training or supervision by qualified roofers for the job at hand.

    Cornwall Council, meanwhile, failed to check the suitability of the family contractors to do the job, even though it knew the roof was fragile and therefore high risk.

    Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths, and there is no excuse for employers failing to protect workers as they work from roofs and the like.”


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