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July 28, 2009

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Untrained worker falls through fragile roof

A workman narrowly avoided serious injury after falling through a fragile roof at a factory in Yorkshire.

Lee Bridge, 23, was working for Tower Roofing Ltd when the incident took place at Elektron Ltd’s factory in Swinton, on 6 March 2008. Mr Bridge was cleaning guttering on one of the dispatch buildings at the site, while standing on a single 8ft x 4ft plywood fall-protection board, which he moved as he progressed along the gutter.

He transfered debris from the gutters into bags and when these became full he passed them to a colleague on the adjacent unprotected roof, which was two metres above him. Approximately 40 minutes into the job he turned around to pick up a rubbish bag, but he did not have his foot fully placed on the plywood protection board, and fell through the fragile roof. He landed on a stack of pallets 2.5m below, and bounced off these, before falling a further 2m on to the concrete floor of the factory. He sustained minor injuries and was not absent from work following the incident.

HSE investigators discovered that both workers had not received any formal training for working at height, or working on fragile roofs. It was also found that they had been provided with a generic method statement and risk assessment, which had been created prior to the Work at Height Regulations 2005. During the course of the investigation the HSE issued an Improvement Notice to Tower Roofing Ltd for failing to provide harnesses and sufficient training.

Tower Roofing Ltd appeared at Trafford Magistrates’ Court on 23 July and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, for failing to take suitable steps to prevent an accident. It was fined £3500 and ordered to pay full costs of £5976.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and had fully complied with the terms of the Improvement Notice. It has subsequently supplied employees with harnesses and sent them on training for working at height and working on fragile roofs.

HSE inspector, Angelica Rutherford-Hacon, said: “Mr Bridge is lucky to be alive and would have been seriously injured if the pallets hadn’t broken his fall.
“The roof he was working on was clearly fragile and should have been boarded out before any attempt was made to clean the guttering. Tower Roofing didn’t think enough about safety in advance of the work starting and put its employees at risk as a result.

“Working on roofs can be extremely dangerous so it’s vital that work is planned properly. Companies should involve the workers who will be doing the job and consult them about the right equipment to use. Those in charge of the work need to ensure that safe methods of working are properly implemented and checked.”

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