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Working at Height - Roofing firm in court after worker’s fall

A roof repair company from Potters Bar has been fined after a worker suffered multiple injuries when he fell four metres from the roof of business park premises in Hoddesdon.

The 23-year-old worker from Dagenham, who does not wish to be named, was on the fragile asbestos cement roof to make temporary repairs on 3 May 2011, when it gave way beneath him.

He sustained serious fractures to his skull and an eye socket, a fractured wrist, major bruising to his back, a gash to his left leg and cuts to his head which required stitches. He was hospitalised for a total of five days.

Reactive Roofing (UK) Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found that the company had failed to adequately plan the work or provide safety measures to protect workers from falls.

Stevenage Magistrates’ Court heard today (4 July) that workers were relying solely on scaffold boards placed over the fragile asbestos roof sheets while overlaying the roof with wooden frames made of battens and covered in tarpaulin. While installing the final frame, the worker walked across an unprotected area of the roof and it gave way beneath him.

HSE told the court the proposed approach of using scaffold boards in isolation was inherently unsafe, as workers would have been at risk during the placement and removal of the boards, as well as during the installation of the wooden frames. This meant that the workers were at risk of falling through the roof at several points during the project.

Reactive Roofing had not fully assessed the risks and should have ensured that suitable equipment, such as platforms, coverings or guard rails was installed.

Reactive Roofing (UK) Ltd of Hatfield Road, Potters Bar, Herts, was fined a total of £17,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,077 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Hoskins said:
“It is vital for those responsible for planning work to ensure they follow the correct precautions when anyone is working at height.
“Reactive Roofing’s workers were exposed to unacceptable risks of falling from the roof or through the fragile asbestos sheets for several days. Their failures led to a young man being severely injured but could very easily have resulted in a fatality.
“Simple measures such as using barriers to prevent access to fragile areas or safely installing adequate coverings over the fragile roof sheets would have meant workers were protected.
“It is essential that the hazards associated with working at height are recognised and understood by those carrying out the work. You should never work on a fragile roof without a safe system of work.”
Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls.

Alpha Training run a half day 'Working at Height Awareness' Course.  The Work at Height Regulations 2005 came into force on 6 April 2005. The Regulations will apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause injury.  The Regulations place duties on employers, the self-employed, and any person that controls the work of others (for example, facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

For further information, or to book on to our next Working at Height Course, please visit our website. 

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