Company Fined After Engineer Falls Through Roof

Prosecution Follows Broken Elbow And Ankle Incident


A security firm based in Essex has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an incident in which an engineer who was working on a roof fell through a fragile ceiling.

The individual, who has declined to be named, was seeking to access an electrical control panel in a gap in the ceiling to fix a faulty roller shutter door at the Dunton premises of Security Door Systems in December 2012.

However, the weak ceiling tiles gave way and he plunged more than three metres, suffering a broken elbow and fractured ankle as a result.

The HSE investigation found the engineer had used a ladder that was supported by a colleague and had to cross ceiling panels that were attached directly to the timber joists to reach the roof, with nothing more substantial than a ply board as a platform for working on.

Basildon Magistrates' Court heard that a sufficient risk assessment was not carried out by the company to ensure working at height dangers were understood and addressed, while the control panel was moved to ground floor level after the incident.

Security Door Systems pleaded guilty in the hearing to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £6,000 with costs of £440.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Corinne Godfrey said: "Security Door Systems was a regular contractor at that site, but failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment that identified the fragile ceiling surface and the need to work above it.

"And in turn, they failed to implement measures to prevent falls through the fragile ceiling surface when work was being undertaken in the void. It was luck rather than good management that someone had not fallen before."

She added that these kinds of injuries are common in workplaces and this one could easily have led to more severe consequences, both for the engineer or anyone who might have been standing in the space below.

Falls from height caused 2,522 serious injuries in UK workplaces during 2013, according to HSE figures.

Expert Opinion
Falls from height are not only among the most common workplace accidents, but also among the most dangerous. Our work helping victims of workplace injury to gain justice and access to financial support which funds their recovery and rehabilitation means we see first-hand the serious physical and psychological consequences of such incidents.

"It is absolutely vital that employers always recognise their safety responsibilities and take steps to ensure that workers are providing with the tools, training and support they need to protect them from harm.

"This case needs to serve as an important example why working at height needs to be handled in the correct, safe manner and lessons should be learned from it."
Stephen Nye, Partner