Contractor died in 50-feet fragile-roof plunge
A paper manufacturer has been fined £260,000 after admitting a failure to monitor a contractor who was working on a fragile roof at its factory in Fife.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard that Thomas Sturrock, 32, was part of a team working for a company that had been contracted to clear moss and debris from the roof of Tullis Russell Papermaker Ltd’s warehouse in Markinch, Fife, on 29 September 2008.
The contractor advised Tullis Russell Papermakers that the team would be using crawling boards on the fragile roof. However, the boards were not used and the team accessed the roof by stepping on to it. While on the roof, they heard a cracking noise and, on turning around, saw that Mr Sturrock had fallen through the roof and landed on a concrete floor 50 feet below. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The HSE visited the scene on the day of the incident and found that when Tullis Russell Papermakers instructed the contractor to carry out the cleaning work, it failed to ensure that the work was properly planned and organised. It also failed to check that crawling boards were being used, which breached its own internal policy to ensure that all outside contractors are monitored when carrying out work at the site.
The HSE issued the paper manufacturer three Prohibition Notices, which required it to prevent access to the roof until the conclusion of the investigation, and avoid restarting work on all four roofs at the site until a safe system of work was in place.
HSE inspector Mac Young said: “Thomas Sturrock might be alive today if simple safety measures had been put in place. If Tullis Russell had ensured the contractor’s activities were monitored then it is possible the incident with Mr Sturrock may have been prevented.
“Tullis Russell Papermakers had a duty to ensure the safety of everyone on their site – whether working directly for them or not. Companies must make sure that work contractors do for them is properly planned and organised, and monitor what actually happens when the work takes place.”
The case against the contractor is currently under consideration by the Crown Office’s health and safety division and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Tullis Russell Papermakers appeared in court on 22 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £260,000. No costs are awarded in Scotland.
After the hearing, Tullis Russell Group chief executive, Chris Parr, said: “The death of Thomas Sturrock was a tragedy and we reiterate our condolences to his family and friends. As an employee-owned business, with over 200 years working at the heart of our local community, the safety and well-being of everyone on our sites continue to be our number one priority. As a result of this incident, we have instigated a wide-ranging review around the management of contractors and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that an incident of this type never happens again.”
In September 2007, the firm was fined £2366 after pleading guilty to breaching reg. 4 and reg. 10 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. This was in relation to an incident at the same facility in Fife, when a sub-contractor disturbed asbestos lining by using a high-pressure water jet to clean a boiler. The asbestos was washed over a wide area of the boiler house and the contamination was only identified 24 hours after the initial cleaning operation.
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