Farm Family Prosecuted Over Fatal Fall

Welsh Farmers Fined After Worker Fell 15 Feet

13.05.2014

A farming family in South Wales has been prosecuted over the death of a roof worker, who fell 15 feet causing fatal injuries.

The incident occurred at the Rhyd Sais Farm at Talgarreg, near Llandysul in July 2010, when worker Ronald Clarke fell through a weak roof onto a concrete floor. He was taken to hospital but died soon after.

He had been working at the site with his sons, who were both witnesses to the tragedy. The trio were working to clear moss from cowshed roofs at premises owned by John Evans, his wife Glenys and his mother Margaret Evans.

The roofs were all made from fibre cement, with one of them having a warning sign stating that it was fragile and crawler boards should be used. However, all three were standing on the roof that gave way when the accident happened.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the Evans family had not made adequate provision to ensure safe working on the roof, which included a failure to check if Mr Clark had the necessary training or qualifications for roof work, despite the onus being on them to establish the competence of those carrying out such a task.

Mr Evans pleaded guilty at Swansea Crown Court on behalf of the family partnership to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £20,000, plus £15,000 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stephen Jones said: "This tragic incident was entirely preventable. A safe system of work would have included either working from a mobile elevated platform, placing suitable covering on the roof to spread the load or fitting safety nets underneath.

"This kind of accident is all too common, particularly on farms, and work at height must always be properly planned." 

Other recent HSE prosecutions for falls from height include that of Nationwide Roofing and Cladding over an incident when an employee repairing a church roof in south London fell through a hole in it and suffered multiple injuries.

The company was found to have failed to provide safeguards like safety railings or a platform to mitigate the effects of any falls.

Expert Opinion
This is a tragic case and are thoughts go out to the family of Ronald Clarke.

“Working at height comes with great risk as this case highlights and every possible step must be taken to protect workers.

“We hope that lessons are learnt from this case throughout the farming industry and within other companies who require work carried out at height to ensure the necessary safety precautions are in place to limit the risk for workers and prevent avoidable injuries.”
Stephen Nye, Partner