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CLIENT FINED OVER ROOF FALL DEATH AT CREMATORIUM

Improvised ‘crash deck’ failed to protect untrained workmen

The owner of a pet and equine crematorium has been prosecuted after a self-employed workman died when he fell through a fragile fibre cement roof whilst carrying out repairs at premises in Newton Abbot, Devon on 6 September 2013. He fell 6.6m to the floor and died at the scene.

Exeter Crown Court heard (16 April) that Paul Hoskin, a self-employed agricultural engineer aged 49, was engaged to repair holes in the crematorium roof assisted by an employee of the defendant. Neither man had any training or expertise in carrying out roof work.

Mr Hoskin was lying on the fragile roof and reaching for a drill when the roof gave way. He struck a wooden pallet and metal frame before hitting the floor. The wooden pallet, held in place below the roof by a forklift truck, was intended to break any fall but was entirely inadequate for the job. It was over 1m below the level of the roof.

There was no evidence of equipment which could have prevented or lessened the effect of a fall e.g. stagings, work platforms or fall arrest systems. The men were allowed to walk on the roof, despite a sign on the building stating ‘Danger – Fragile Roof’.

A suitable risk assessment had not been carried out and a method statement for the job was not in place. The defendant failed to check if Mr Hoskin was competent to carry out work on roofs and the employee was known to have no qualifications for working at height.

Necessary skills and training must be in place

Sally Williams, of Newton Abbot pleaded guilty breaching Section 3 (1) and Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was fined a total of £45,000 and ordered to pay £8180 in costs.

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

“Mr Hoskin’s tragic death revealed a catalogue of serious safety failings with this job.

Employers must make sure people they ask to do work for them have the right training and experience for the job and are provided with the equipment to do it safely. Activities must be properly assessed and planned in advance.

Falls from height are one of the most common causes of fatalities at work and yet simple procedures and planning could save many lives.”

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