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January 7, 2010

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Inadequately protected worker survived 8-metre fall from height

A roofer escaped with his life after falling 26 feet through a fragile roof at an industrial unit in Birmingham.

Paul Leggett, 28, was working as a sub-contractor for Ian Griffiths, who had been contracted to repair leaks on the roof of the unit. On 8 October 2008, Mr Leggett and a colleague were repairing cracks in the unit’s asbestos-cement roof. Mr Leggett was standing on a single crawling board on the roof and, as he bent over, he lost his balance and fell through the roof, landing on a concrete floor almost 8 metres below. He sustained a broken leg, ankle, wrist and nose and, owing to these injuries, has as yet been unable to return to work.

The HSE visited the site on the day of the incident and issued a Prohibition Notice, which required Griffiths to create a new method statement, and invest in suitable safety equipment for working at height.

HSE inspector Mike Ford said: “Mr Leggett was lucky to survive falling 26 feet through the roof, landing on the concrete floor below. The equipment provided to these men and the system of work used were completely inadequate. The precautions taken to ensure their safety fell far short of what is acceptable.”

Griffiths appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 18 December and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1)(c) and 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failing to ensure the work was carried out in a safer manner, and not taking suitable steps to prevent an accident. He was fined £3500 and ordered to pay £1408 in costs.

In mitigation, Griffiths said he had no previous convictions and has produced a new method statement, which has been deemed suitable by the HSE. He also put in place crawling boards with guardrails to prevent workers from falling. He has also provided harnesses, which contractors are instructed to attach to the rails.

Inspector Ford concluded: “Working at height remains a major cause of death and injury at work in Great Britain. Employers must ensure the correct precautions are taken and the right equipment is used.”

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