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January 10, 2011

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Inspector stunned by repeat skylight falls

The HSE has prosecuted two companies after three workers fell through skylights on three separate occasions at an industrial unit in Warrington.

The initial incident took place on 20 March 2007 at Bizspace Investment Ltd’s facility at the Craven Court industrial estate at Winwick Quay. A caretaker at the site was cleaning guttering on the roof when he fell through a fragile skylight, and suffered multiple broken ribs.

Following the incident, one of his colleagues, having been sent to take photos of the scene, fell through a different skylight. He landed feet-first on a mezzanine floor and escaped without injury.

The firm hired Anthony Massey, trading as Massey Roofing and Building Contractors, to repair the skylights. On 10 April 2007, one of Massey’s employees was carrying out the work without safety equipment when he, too, fell through a skylight. He sustained serious spinal injuries, which has left him paralysed from the waist down.

HSE inspector Martin Heywood described his astonishment that three similar incidents were allowed to happen on three separate occasions. He said: “A man was sent on to a roof without safety equipment, despite two caretakers falling through skylights less than a month earlier.

“As a result, the worker is likely to need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. If the project had been properly planned, using appropriate equipment for work at height, then all three workers would have remained uninjured.”

Bizspace appeared at Warrington Crown Court on 7 January and pleaded guilty to s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £9000 in costs.

Anthony Massey appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the same Act. As he had been declared bankrupt, Massey received a 12-month conditional discharge.

Following the hearing a spokesman from Bizspace told SHP: “The conviction of Bizspace only related to the falls of their two employees, not that of the specialist roofing contractor, which was clearly the most serious of the three.€ᄄ

“Judge Hales accepted that neither employee was instructed by the company to go onto the roof and indeed, that there was no necessity for them to be there. This was reflected in the low level of fine imposed.”

Inspector Heywood added: “More workplace deaths are caused by falls from height than anything else but companies continue to allow workers to balance dangerously on roofs. It is vital lessons are learnt from this tragic case.”

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13 years ago

This is unbelievable and an absolute abdication of duty of care to employees and contractors. How did the compnay think that these workers could perform the task assigned to them without going onto the roof.
The small fine is also a whitewash

13 years ago

True but no matter how many safety procedures are put in place and whatever level of training given, you cannot legislate for those who choose to ignore the rules and do their own thing. Only once identified can such behaviour be addressed.

13 years ago

This is a perfect example of why Lord Youngs review is flawed, in that you can never trust people to use their “common sense”!

13 years ago

It says something about the company culture and the inadequacy of disipline implied by the safety management system, for two individuals to independently go onto a fragile roof without a risk assessment and proper safeguards. It is clearly only chance that one or more of the men did not meet their deaths – I think the punishments metered out by the court on both companies take insufficient account of these factors and the need to give a serious message to other duty holders in UK.