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March 8, 2011

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Labourer fell through rooflight during "poorly planned" work

A York farmer has admitted failing to make adequate plans for work at height during the renovation of a farm building.

York Magistrates’ Court heard that a builder’s labourer suffered multiple fractures when he fell through a fragile rooflight while working at Moorhouse Farm, in Hovingham.

The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working with a builder who had been contracted to construct a residential property at the site, when the incident took place on 28 October 2009. The farm owner, Bruce Quarton, asked both men if they could help remove alternate ridge tiles to improve ventilation on a building that was being renovated into a cattle shed by a third party. They agreed and Mr Quarton lifted them up to the roof in the bucket of a tractor.

They began removing the ridge tiles and placing them in the tractor bucket but there was no edge protection in place around the roof. As the labourer walked across the roof he stepped on a rooflight and fell three metres to the ground. He sustained fractures to his skull, collarbone and wrist, ruptured his spleen and broke six ribs. He was unable to return to work for five months owing to his injuries, but he has subsequently made a full recovery.

HSE principal inspector, David Green, told SHP that the work was poorly planned and the incident could have been avoided if crawling boards had been provided, or if the work had been carried out from a mobile elevated work platform. He said: “This work was poorly planned and executed from start to finish, with the end result being a horrific fall that could easily have killed the labourer. Thankfully, he has since made a full recovery, but that doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the incident or the disregard for safety at the time.

Bruce Quarton appeared in court on 3 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £6000 and ordered to pay £1530 towards costs.

In mitigation, Quarton said he had no previous convictions and he deeply regretted the incident. He said his failure to provide adequate equipment for the job was not financially motivated but was an oversight created by his failure to understand his health and safety responsibilities.

Inspector Green concluded: “Using a tractor and bucket as an impromptu lift is totally unacceptable. I hope this prosecution serves as a further reminder that farm machinery should only be used for its intended purpose, and that work at height needs to be properly planned.”

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