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July 14, 2008

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Council body fined after trainee falls through concealed skylight

Homes for Haringey, the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) set up to manage the housing stock of Haringey Council in north London, has been fined £10,000 after a trainee plumber fell ten feet, injuring his upper spine to such an extent that he could not work for 12 months.

City of London magistrates were told that on 18 January 2007, work was being carried out to change a water tank in a loft at a Council-owned north-London residential flat being managed by Homes for Haringey. “The area where the skylight was located had not been boarded out and was covered with loft insulation,” John Crookes, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case, told SHP. “The trainee attempted to cross the unboarded, badly-lit area by stepping on joists without being able to properly see where he was going. He happened to step on the skylight, which could not support his weight, leading to his fall on to the stairs below.”

Homes for Haringey said the existence of the skylight had not been typical of the type of premises it normally managed. But inspector Crookes countered: “The point was that a loft floor can be fragile for many different reasons. If the appropriate system of work and equipment had been followed and available, then the reason would have been immaterial. It is possible to pass over fragile materials in a safe manner if secure boards are put down to create a working platform, or crawling boards are used across unboarded sections.”

The inspector concluded: “ALMOs were set up to bring improved business practices into managing local-authority housing stock. This includes effectively managing the health and safety of employees.”

Homes for Haringey pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by not ensuring its employees’ safety on 1 July. In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay full HSE costs of £3562.

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