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May 26, 2009

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Welder falls during roof construction

A workman suffered serious injuries after falling 3.5 metres from a roof during the construction of an acoustic booth.

Kevin Cooke, 40, was working as a fabricator welder at a ventilation-installation and steel-fabrication company in Coventry, when the accident took place on 2 December 2008. He was attempting to install a roof on to an acoustic booth, which acts as a housing unit to reduce noise emitted from electric and heating pipe-work at industrial plants.

A forklift was used to lift  metal sheeting on to the roof, where Mr Cooke was kneeling in order to drill and bolt the sheets in place. During this process his drill broke, causing him to jolt forwards and lose his balance. He fell to the ground and hit the open door of the booth during the fall.

One of his colleagues called for an ambulance and he was taken to hospital for treatment for a fractured left wrist, two broken fingers, and damage to his eye socket. Owing to the severity of his injuries he was unable to return to work for more than four months.

His employer, Thornett Mechanical Services Ltd, appeared at Coventry Magistrates’ Court on 13 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failure to plan or supervise the job, and reg.6(3) of the same legislation, for failing to take suitable measures to prevent the accident. The company was fined £2500 and ordered to pay £2151 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and has subsequently installed guardrails on the roof of the booth, to prevent workers from falling.

HSE inspector, Pam Folsom, said: “Thornett Mechanical Services Ltd failed to carry out a risk assessment, or plan a safe system of work. This could have involved fabricating the roof at floor level and lifting it into position so that the perimeter fixings could then be undertaken from the tower scaffold, or erecting edge protection around the roof’s perimeter as the tower scaffold only covered the width of the booth.

“The injured man had not been trained to work at height and his supervisor had not been trained to conduct risk assessments. Furthermore, the supervisor had not done any work-at-height training himself.”

She continued: “Such failures are unacceptable, especially as HSE has published a wealth of advice and guidance for employers to help them reduce the risk of falls from height. HSE has also recently launched the ‘Shattered Lives’ campaign to raise awareness of slips, trips and falls in the workplace.”

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