Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

September 23, 2016

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Worker died after seven metre fall, court hears

A company in Somerset has been fined after the death of a worker who fell through a factory roof skylight.

Taunton Crown Court heard Samuel Wright Maxwell, 46, of Wells Somerset was employed by Cooper B Line (CBL) factory in Highbridge, Somerset.

As a maintenance worker, Mr Maxwell had permission to go onto the roofs for various tasks and did so regularly without adequate and sufficient safety measures being in place.

On the 17 May 2013, he was on the roof working when colleagues below heard a crash, discovering Mr Maxwell had fallen through a skylight onto the concrete floor of the rack assembly area seven metres below. He died shortly after the fall.

The roofs at CBL were extensive and people worked on them regularly, without proper precautions to prevent them falling.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that CBL management failed to appreciate the risks to their maintenance workers when working on the roofs. They had carried out an inadequate generic risk assessment, which failed to identify the risks and control measures necessary when its employees were working at height.

Mr Maxwell’s partner, Gwenaelle Ansquer said: “Losing Sam in this way casts a huge black cloud over my life and the life of our daughter. Even now over three years later, I still feel like it happened yesterday. I have been waiting all that time for CBL to accept the responsibility for something that should never have happened. I wish that they had done that from the beginning. I cannot believe they ever tried to deny it”.

HSE Inspector Annette Walker said: “The senior management of companies must learn from this tragic case that they need to take the health and safety of their workers seriously. In this case a confusing system of work had developed and unintentionally encouraged dangerous methods.

“Falls from height continue to account for a significant proportion of all workplace deaths and serious injuries. Falls through fragile roofs and skylights sadly happen all too often. Businesses should ensure that all roof work including routine maintenance is properly planned and carried out safely.”

Cooper B-Line Limited, of Walrow Industrial Estate, Highbridge, Somerset, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £210,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,493.52.

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