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November 14, 2008

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Company and contractor fined after worker’s roof fall

A workman was seriously injured after falling from a ladder while repairing a factory roof, magistrates have been told.

On 7 November, Halifax Magistrates Court heard that the victim, Francis Ancliffe, was carrying out repairs to the roof of a mill when the accident occurred on 31 October last year. Mr Ancliffe, 25, was fitting plastic covers on to screws, when a ladder he was using became detached from the roof ridge. He fell four metres to the ground below and fractured both heels. The accident has left him permanently disabled and unable to return to work.

Investigators found that there were limited safeguards to prevent injury from falling from height. Scaffolding had been removed before the work had been complete, and guardrails had not been erected in all the necessary areas. Had the scaffolding remained in place, the victim would have fallen a much shorter distance.

As well as a risk of falling through the glass in the roof, there were also no safety measures in place to prevent a fall once the glass had been removed.

Mill owner, Calderbrook Estates, employed Michael Stephenson as roofing coordinator, and both were deemed culpable by the HSE.

Stephenson pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2006 for not ensuring sufficient safety measures were in place to prevent a fall. The court fined Stephenson £2000 and ordered him to pay costs of £1500.

Calderbrook Estates pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulation by virtue of section 36 (1) of the HSWA 1974. The firm was fined £2500 and ordered to pay costs of £3355.

In mitigation Stephenson largely accepted responsibility but pointed out that it was Calderbrook Estates’ decision to remove the scaffolding. The company argued that it had been let down by Mr Stephenson, who it believed was extremely reliable owing to his extensive experience.

HSE inspector David Welsh told SHP: “Calderbrook Estates should have requested that a safe system of work was put in writing by Mr Stephenson. It should have compared this to HSE guidelines to ensure that the system was safe.

“Scaffolding and guard rails were not provided in all the necessary areas and the scaffolding was removed before the work was complete. If these safety measures had been in place throughout the repairs then the accident would not have happened.”

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