Construction Firm Fined Over Employee Fall

Building Firm Prosecuted For Failing To Guard Fragile Roof Light

15.05.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A construction firm has been prosecuted over an accident in which one of its staff fell through a roof light, breaking two bones in his back.

Brims Construction was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident at Pearl Assurance House in Newcastle in September last year, when the firm was carrying out refurbishment work.

In addition to his fractures, the 29-year-old employee also suffered bruising, but he is expected to make a full recovery.    

An HSE investigation found Brims had been advised by a consultant to install safety barriers to prevent anyone falling through the fragile safety lights.

However, none were installed until after the accident, which occurred when the worker placed an item on one of the lights and it broke, causing him to plunge through and fall three metres to the floor below.

The HSE also found there had been paper signs on the roof lights warning they were fragile, but these were not in place at the time of the accident.

Brims Construction pleaded guilty at Newcastle Magistrates' Court to a breach of Regulation 9(2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The firm was fined £6,000 with £690 in costs.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Martin Smith said: "This incident could easily have been prevented if Brims Construction Ltd had ensured that the fragile roof lights were either covered or effectively fenced off - something they did very easily after the incident happened.

"Instead a worker suffered a serious fall that could have cost him his life and he was lucky to escape with what were still serious injuries."

He added that the dangers of working at height on fragile roofs are well-known and failures to take steps to protect against such incidents are "simply not acceptable".

Other recent HSE prosecutions for falls through fragile roofs include that of Perthshire farming company Messrs Finlay McGowan, which was fined this week after one of its staff was injured by a fall through a roof light in August 2012.

Expert Opinion
This case highlights the importance of workplace safety measures and although the company involved later put up safety barriers – it was too little too late for the worker who fell through the roof.

"Falls from height are all too common, particularly in the construction industry. There are guidelines in place to help firms keep their employees safe but too many are still not doing enough to prevent work accidents.

"Workers can become very seriously injured in falls from height and it is important that they get access to the specialist treatment and rehabilitation that they need and deserve."
Stephen Nye, Partner