Workman lifted plywood cover and fell 6m through roof opening

Right Angle Ltd and the director of roofing contractor working on the project have been fined after a workman was seriously injured when falling some 6m through a roof opening after removing a ply cover and walking into the void.

The injured man fractured his back and bruised his diaphragm, lungs and thigh in the incident in London on 29 February 2012. He was unable to work for 14 months and still requires hospital treatment for back problems that have forced him to seek alternative employment.

John Donald (T/A John Donald Roofing) controlled the work being undertaken for the principal contractor Right Angle Ltd which involved refurbishing and extending three residential properties.

Safety failings across the site

Westminster Magistrates Court heard (16 July) that the fall occurred as the workman cleared materials from a flat roof. He picked up a piece of ply that he assumed was debris without realising it concealed a roof light void beneath.

He fell feet first through the void and landed on the first floor some 5.6 metres below, fracturing his spine on impact.

HSE established that the measures taken to mark and protect this and other similar voids were totally unacceptable, and that any number of workers could have suffered a similar fate. Further failings included:

  • flat roofs without edge protection;
  • fall risks on the scaffold;
  • open joists;
  • open staircases without handrails;
  • fire risks and inadequate fire prevention measures;
  • numerous slip and trip hazards caused by excess rubbish and debris; and
  • glazed window frames unsecured and liable to fall.

The court was told the fall was entirely preventable had the void been clearly marked and better protected, which was the responsibility of both defendants. Moreover, Right Angle Ltd as principal contractor failed to properly plan, manage and monitor the project construction phase.

Workforce exposed “host of foreseeable risks”

Right Angle Ltd, of Finchley Road, London failed to properly plan, manage and monitor the construction phase and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £5,375 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

John Donald, of Rickmansworth, was fined £4,000 with £3,965 costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Danielle Coppell said:

“There were numerous failings on the part of Right Angle Ltd that exposed multiple operatives to a host of foreseeable risks, including falls, slips and trips.

John Donald has to accept culpability as an experienced roofer who should have known better. He instructed the injured worker to work in an unsafe area where there were wholly insufficient measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall.

The end result is that a young man has sustained life-changing spinal injuries from which he may never fully recover.”


Rooflight void where fall occurred

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