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Company sentenced after worker seriously injured during roof cleaning

17 March 2017

A Kent based haulage company has been sentenced after an employee fell four and a half metres through a fragile sky light onto a concrete floor while cleaning a roof.

Southwark Crown Court heard that a 29-year-old HGV driver employed by Erith Haulage Company Limited sustained significant injuries when he fell at the company’s premises at Anchor Bay Wharf in the town.

The cleaning was undertaken by two drivers, requested by the company’s driver foreman and took place on the weekend of the 17 and 18 January 2015.

A Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) was hired for the cleaning, but when one of the drivers could not reach a section of the roof from the MEWP he got out and stood on the roof.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the roof in question was metal with gutters running along it. Dirty skylights were located in strips over the portion of roof, making them a similar colour to the roof.

After some time cleaning, the driver noticed a section of roof left uncleaned and while walking along a section of the roof he fell through a skylight. He landed on a concrete floor 4.5 metres below.

HSE prosecuted the company for its failure to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was safe, so far as reasonably practicable.

The court heard neither driver had received training or knowledge regarding the use of the MEWP, no edge protection was in place around the roof edges to prevent falls from height, no harness or netting was used (e.g. harnesses or netting) to minimise the distance or consequences of a fall, the fragile roof lights were not covered or edge protected to prevent falls from height.

The fall caused the man to spend a month in hospital sustaining significant injuries including a fracture to the base of his skull, multiple facial fractures, and whiplash. He also suffered damage to bones in both arms which needed pins and plates, as well as leg injuries.

Erith Haulage Company Limited of Erith House, Queen Street, Erith, Kent pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £215,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,622.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said: “This easily preventable incident resulted in life changing injuries to this man.

“I want this case to raise awareness within the industry and amongst companies in general, that proper planning and operation of work at height is imperative. This case highlights the very serious consequences that may arise from oversight.”

For more information on working at height and fragile roof work, visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg33.pdf