Lawyer Urges ‘Falls From Height’ Safety Improvement After 45ft Fall Leaves Man In Coma

Vital Funds Secured For Rehabilitation

29.03.2011

A leading workplace injury lawyer is urging construction businesses to improve site safety after securing an intensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy programme for a roofer who fell 45ft through a skylight while at work.

The accident left Timothy Kirk, 42, from High Green in Sheffield, with such severe injuries that his son was unable to recognise him. He was knocked unconscious and left in a coma for 11 days after the incident in October 2000 which happened when Mr Kirk stepped on a concealed skylight unable to hold his weight.

His employers should have made sure the dangerous roof was secure before sending him to carry out repairs.

Mr Kirk turned to workplace accident specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell for help with his care costs after being left unable to walk without the aid of crutches for support. They secured a settlement of £340,000 to help cover his ongoing physiotherapy and lost earnings.

The law firm is now urging businesses to uphold their duty to protect workers to reduce the number of people injured at work. The latest Health and Safety Executive statistics show that in South Yorkshire in 2009/10 there were:

• four fatal injuries;
• 624 non-fatal major injuries;
• 2,257 injuries lasting over three days.

David Urpeth, national head of workplace injuries at Irwin Mitchell, said: “This was a horrific accident. This has been an extremely distressing experience for Mr Kirk and his family, but there is also a wider issue that needs to be addressed.

“Far too many people are injured in South Yorkshire each year through no fault of their own while they are carrying out their normal duties at work.

“Many of these cases would have been avoided if businesses had followed simple health and safety procedures. More must be done to protect workers and make sure companies comply with regulations. We have repeatedly called for improvements in safety standards and will continue to campaign for the rights of the victims we represent.

“After the suffering Mr Kirk had gone through, it was crucial that he was able to access the care he needed in order to help him recover and rebuild his life.

“He has been left unable to work, and is only able to walk by using walking sticks and it was vitally important for his future life that he received the most comprehensive medical treatment possible for his many injuries.

“He has undergone extensive physiotherapy and is receiving specialist care and rehabilitation, and hopefully with this expert help will make a huge difference to his recovery and quality of life.”

Mr Kirk suffered a fractured pelvis, fractured femur and numerous head and facial injuries as a result of the fall. He also had to undergo a tracheotomy to aid his breathing, as well as three operations on his stomach to reduce internal injuries.

Mr Kirk said: “The skylight was a very similar colour to the roof and was very difficult to see. It gave way when I stepped back onto it, causing me to fall 45 feet to the ground below.

“I was so seriously injured that while I was in hospital a month later my son couldn’t even recognise me. Aside from the obvious pain from my injuries, it was heartbreaking my own young son did not know who I was, but I’m just lucky to be alive after falling so far.

“This whole experience has been terrifying for the family and nothing can be done to put my life back to how it was before the accident.”

Irwin Mitchell negotiated an out-of-court settlement on behalf of Mr Kirk with his employer R & K Ward Roofing Contractors Ltd. The sum of £340,000 includes a series of interim payments which Irwin Mitchell secured throughout the course of the case to pay for his care prior to the settlement as well as covering Mr Kirk’s lost earnings and ongoing physiotherapy programme.