Construction Firms Prosecuted Over Worker Fall

Companies Fined After Falling Foul Of Safety Law


A pair of construction firms have been prosecuted and fined after a man was injured in a fall through a fragile roof at a site in Kent.

The 46-year-old, who does not wish to be named, suffered a broken rib and fractured left wrist after plunging two metres through the roof of a food packaging firm's cold store near Canterbury in Kent, where he had been undertaking construction work in October 2012.

In response to the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the roles of construction firms WW Martin - which the food firm had been using for several years to carry out work - and Branclad, the specialist roofing firm it hired to complete this particular job.

A risk assessment conducted by Branclad and sent to WW Martin noted that the fragility of the roof was a danger and stated that platforms with handrails would be used as a safety measure. However, the HSE found that from the start of work in September to the accident a few weeks later, no such measures were put in place.

Canterbury Magistrates heard that work was halted for ten days when the accident happened, but even then it resumed with no new safety measures other than more even platforms. At no time were the recommended handrails and harnesses introduced by Branclad and WW Martin took no action in response.

Both firms said they considered adding platforms with handrails but were concerned the very fragility of the roof would mean it could not handle this extra weight.

Each company pleaded guilty to one breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The court ruled that Branclad bore 60 per cent of the responsibility and it was fined £7,000 with costs of £3,588. WW Martin was fined £10,000 due to it being in a stronger financial position with the same amount in costs.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: "It is incredible the work was carried out despite the companies’ misgivings about the strength of the internal cold store roof."  

HSE guidance on complying with the Working at Height 2005 Regulations notes that firms should ensure "the risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed".

Expert Opinion
This man suffered nasty injuries as a result of two companies failing to adhere to safety regulations that aim to keep workers safe.

“For a risk assessment to be carried out, but then to be completely ignored is not acceptable and resulted in terrible consequences.

“Sadly, through our day-to-day work we see that this is not uncommon. We hope that the HSE prosecution serves as a reminder to all companies about the importance of following regulations to protect those who work at heights and within the construction industry as a whole.”
Stephen Nye, Partner