Company failed to plan and supervise high risk work

A farming business has been fined for safety failings after a worker was injured when he fell more than 3m through a roof light.

James Bridge, aged 18, was clearing roof gutters at one of four farms run by family partnership Messrs Finlay McGowan when the incident occurred on 15 August 2012.

Perth Sheriff Court heard (13 May) the injured workman was lifted onto the roof in a basket attached to a telehandler. He walked to the far end of the roof, stepping over a PVC roof light he knew was fragile. On returning he did not notice the roof light which he stepped on causing him to fall to a concrete passageway below.

He suffered a fractured skull, bleeding inside the skull, bruising to his face and a laceration above his left eye. He was discharged the following day and has since made a full recovery from his injuries.

HSE found the workers had not been issued with instructions and their work was unsupervised. The men involved had not been trained to work at height including work near fragile roof surfaces. The firm failed to properly plan and appropriately supervise work being carried out at height.

Precautions basic, inexpensive and easily implemented

Messrs Finlay McGowan, of Incheoch Farm, Alyth, Perthshire, were fined £12,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Michelle Gillies, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. The precautions needed to prevent falls from height are basic, inexpensive and easily implemented such as using crawling boards to spread weight over a large surface and shield fragile roof sheeting or simply by using a mobile working platform.

Messrs Finlay McGowan should have carried out a risk assessment before work started. This would have identified hazards as well as measures that would have eliminated or reduced the risks to the health and safety of the partnership’s employees.”

Falls through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights account for almost a fifth of all the fatal incidents which result from a fall from height in the construction industry.

On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light. Many others suffer permanent disabling injury.

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