A recent prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) serves as a warning to company directors and business owners of the importance of implementing comprehensive, safe systems for working at height.
The prosecution was brought on the basis that John Ruck Construction Ltd. of Leominster, Herefordshire, had failed to put in place safety measures to protect a worker who was then seriously injured when he fell through a fragile roof. The company was ordered to pay £3,500 in fines plus £1,165 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which covers working on or near a fragile surface.
On 4 December 2006, employee Mark Woodward was undertaking the re-roofing of a property when he fell more than 4.5 metres through a fragile adjoining roof. Insufficient measures had been taken to support or protect anyone from falling. Mr Woodward fell through a fibre cement sheet roof onto a concrete floor below.
Although the roof area where the company was contracted to work had measures in place to protect employees, the work plan changed, with the result that employees were passing across other roofs which were totally unprotected. Mr Woodward survived the fall but suffered a broken arm that was so serious that it required ongoing surgery 12 months after the incident had occurred.
According to the HSE, such falls remain one of the biggest causes of death in the workplace. Last year, in the construction industry alone there were 10 employees killed, 13 self-employed workers killed and 3,409 workers seriously injured after falling from height.
HSE Principal Inspector Tony Woodward said, “Many incidents could be avoided if companies ensured that they had thought through a safe way of tackling a job, provided all necessary protective equipment and ensured workers were fully trained and properly supervised. Precautions that need to be taken to prevent falls are often simple and there is ample free guidance readily available to help companies take the right action.”
Weaknesses in health and safety measures often arise where work plans have to be changed.
For information on safe working at height, see http://hse.gov.uk/falls/index.htm.
Pinder Reaux & Associates