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December 11, 2009

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Untrained contractor falls through rooflight

An international freight forwarding company has been criticised for failing to assess the competence of contractors, following the death of a labourer at its warehouse in West London.

Richard Gibbs, 24, had been contracted to replace rooflights that were leaking at K-Line Logistics (UK) Ltd’s warehouse in Feltham. He had not received any training as a roofer and had been given limited instructions before starting work on the job.

The incident took place during the second day of the repairs, on 31 January 2007. Mr Gibbs was working on the roof with one of his colleagues, and had removed one of the two fragile sheets, which formed the rooflight. As he continued to work he accidentally stepped on the remaining roof sheet, and fell seven metres to the warehouse floor. He was airlifted to hospital, where he later died from the multiple injuries that he sustained during the fall.

An Improvement Notice was issued on the same day, which prevented work from continuing until a suitable method statement was created. HSE inspector Owen Yorath said: “It is vital that employers take steps to assess the competence of those they contract to undertake work, and on their premises, particularly high risk work such as work on or around fragile roofs.”

K-Line Logistics (UK) Ltd appeared at City of London Magistrates’ Court on 8 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £4752.

In mitigation, the company entered an early guilty plea and said it had no previous convictions. It said it regretted the incident and had complied with the terms of the Prohibition Notice and the HSE’s investigation.

The HSE was unable to pursue charges against any other party due to insufficient evidence. Inspector Yorath added: “This fatality was set in motion when K-Line Logistics UK Ltd contracted the job of replacing the warehouse roof lights but failed to plan, risk assess, supervise or ensure the competence of those they contracted to do the work.”

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