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May 25, 2010

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Two firms fined after worker fell through rooflight

A builder suffered a fractured vertebrae after falling through an unprotected rooflight at a factory in Hertfordshire.

St Albans Crown Court heard that Hartog Hutton Ltd had been contracted by Fluorocarbon Company Ltd to repair leaks on its factory roof. Danny Langdon, 63, was working on the roof when the incident took place on Christmas Eve 2008.

Hartog Hutton had given Mr Langdon a harness to use while working on the roof, but he had not been trained in how to use the harness and there were no anchor points on the roof. While he was working he fell through a rooflight, hit a gantry crane and landed on machinery seven metres below. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector John Berezansky stated that Mr Langdon is “lucky to be alive”. He said: “This incident was entirely avoidable and should not have happened. Working at height is one of the most obvious and well-known dangers for those involved in repairing or maintenance of buildings.”

Hartog Hutton appeared in court on 19 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, reg. 9(1) of the Work at Height Regulations, and reg. 41(c)(i) of the CDM Regulations 2007, for failing to ensure that employees working on the roof were competent to do so.  It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7076 in costs.

The company has no previous convictions and told the court that it no longer carries out roof work of this nature.

Fluorocarbon Company Ltd appeared at East Hertfordshire Magistrates’ Court on 28 April and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 4(1)(a) of the CDM Regulations, for failing to appoint a competent contractor. It was fined £5000 and £5195 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and it has subsequently tightened up its procedures for selecting contractors.

Inspector Berezansky added: “Employers need to plan ahead and assess potential risks before carrying out any work at height. HSE will continue to prosecute companies that fail to carry out their duties, which include both employers and firms hiring contractors to do specialist work for them.”

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