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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
July 23, 2008

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Teenager “not at work” when he fell from employer’s roof during lunchtime

A coach-building firm has been fined just £7000 over an incident in which a teenage apprentice playing football in his lunch-break died, because he was deemed not to be at work.

Manchester Crown Court heard on 30 June that 16-year-old Ashley Saunders had been having a kick-about with workmates in the factory yard of S. Cartwright & Sons (Coachbuilders), of Altrincham, Greater Manchester, on 7 February 2006. When the ball was accidentally kicked up on to a roof the apprentice used a mobile work platform normally used for working on trailers to try to retrieve it. But as he walked up the roof he lost his footing, and dropped 5.3m through a skylight to the concrete floor below. He received serious head injuries, from which he later died.

S Cartwright was fined £7000 and ordered to pay £17,376 in full costs after pleading guilty to breaching reg.8(1)(c) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 by failing to prevent exposure of employees to potentially dangerous situations unless they have had adequate health and safety instruction.

The firm was served with an Improvement Notice after the incident, requiring it to put up prominent warning notices that the roof was fragile. In mitigation, S Cartwright said it had since spent a considerable amount of money on improving health and safety. It expressed its regret over the boy’s death, but said that he had not actually been at work when the fall occurred. This was also the judge’s view, although not that of the HSE, which brought the case. Inspector Polly Tomlinson, who was involved in the early stages of the prosecution, told SHP the HSE was “disappointed” at the judge’s decision, adding that the victim’s family was also unhappy with the outcome of the case.

HSE Principal Inspector Vincent Joyce said the incident was “entirely avoidable”. He said: “We don’t want to stop healthy break-time activities such as football, but employers need to be fully aware of what their employees get up to on their premises, and take action to protect them.

“The dangers of fragile roofs are not always apparent, so access routes to roofs should be appropriately marked.” He concluded: “Access to the roof should be restricted to employees and contractors with adequate knowledge and training in working at height.”

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