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September 2, 2010

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Farm family devastated by son’s fatal fall

The teenage stepson of a farm manager died after falling through the roof of a farm building in Ballindalloch, Scotland.

Elgin Sheriff Court heard that the incident took place at Inverlochy Farm on 21 August 2006. The farm’s junior manager, Raymond Irvine, and an employee were clearing a gutter, which ran between the roofs of the main cattle shed and the feed passage. In order to access the cattle shed roof they parked a tractor next to the building and raised the machine’s bucket so that it was level with the roof, and then climbed up the vehicle.

Mr Irvine’s 13-year-old stepson, Austin Irvine ,was playing in the courtyard next to the cattle shed and asked if he could help clear the gutter. His father wouldn’t allow him to help but told him he could stand in the tractor’s bucket to watch the work.

Mr Irvine climbed down from the roof and lowered the bucket to ground level so his son could step inside it. He raised the bucket back up and told his son to remain inside. As Mr Irvine was getting out of the vehicle, his son walked on to the roof and stepped on a rooflight, which gave way. The boy fell 4.5 metres to the ground and died in hospital four days later from serious head injuries.

The farm’s management company, John Irvine and Son, was issued an Improvement Notice on 24 November 2006, which required it to carry out a risk assessment for working at height.

The company appeared in court on 25 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £13,500.

In mitigation, the company said this was an isolated incident and it had no previous convictions. It told the court that it rents the farm and the landlord usually carries out roof work. But, on this occasion, it decided to do the job itself, as the roof needed urgent attention. The accident has left the family devastated and all roof work is now referred to the landlord.

HSE inspector Ann Poyner said: “This tragedy should never have happened and could have been prevented if John Irvine and Son had properly assessed the risks of working on a fragile roof and taken steps to prevent falls through the roof.

“Farmers and those working in agriculture frequently carry out roof work, yet fail to appreciate that the risks involved are always substantial. If possible, avoid going on fragile roofs and always keep children clear of high-risk activities. If you are planning this type of work, you should always make sure you have the right equipment to ensure that the work area is strong enough to work from, and that guardrails are in place at open edges and suitable access is provided.”

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A Walsham
A Walsham
3 years ago

What a tragedy to have happened to the Irvine family. The loss is so sad.

Mick Hall
Mick Hall
2 years ago

Any Farmer in the land is not a roofing specialist and that is what is required to have the knowledge that any roof covering may hold weight but may not hold weight. I must sate an example of a window cleaner falling through an asbestos roof and smashing both ankles. Because I was told this I became more aware of the dangers of asbestos roofing. I have seen kids who have overcome razor wire, protecting the roof on a large bakery which had an asbestos ‘big 6 roof, run across that roof just for ‘kicks’ . I and a companion,… Read more »