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September 29, 2010

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Untrained worker fell through unsecured roof panel

A concrete firm has been prosecuted for instructing untrained workers to demolish a steel-framed building without a safe system of work.

City of London Magistrates’ Court heard that Alfie Deville, 59, and three other men were dismantling the building at the Bedfont Trading Estate in Feltham, when the incident took place on 30 April 2009.

The men were working for Master Concrete Ltd and had been instructed to pull down the building so it could be erected on another part of the site. They had been provided with a cherry-picker so they could remove the steel roof panels without stepping on the roof. But the men decided to leave the vehicle’s basket and started to unscrew the panels while working directly on the roof.

Mr Deville was walking across the roof towards the cherry-picker, when he stepped on the corner of an unsecured roof panel and fell four metres to the ground. He suffered head injuries, a broken collarbone, and six fractured ribs. He was unable to return to work for a number of weeks owing to his injuries.

On 6 May 2009, the company was issued a Prohibition Notice, which required the work to stop until it was properly planned and carried out by competent persons. The company ignored the notice and the building was subsequently demolished by untrained workers. No further injuries were sustained when the work was completed, and the HSE decided to only pursue charges in relation to the accident.

HSE inspector Loraine Charles said: “If the work had been properly planned and carried out by workers who were competent to do it, then this needless injury could have been avoided.

“Master Concrete had a responsibility to ensure that there was a safe system of work in place for the dismantling of this structure, which it did not fulfill, and, as a result, Mr Deville sustained a serious injury.”

Master Concrete appeared in court on 27 September and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,923.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and it takes the safety of its employees very seriously. It disputed that it had failed to comply with the Prohibition Notice and said that a safe plan had been put in place to complete the work.

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