Company Fined Over Worker Roof Fall

Plymouth Firm Prosecuted After Worker Almost Loses Life

03.09.2014

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a Plymouth-based roofing firm over an accident in which a member of staff nearly died after falling from a roof.

B&C Roofing was investigated by the HSE after 29-year-old James Hopkins fell from the pitched roof of a terraced house in Torpoint in April 2013. Mr Hopkin had been supervising the work on the home on Marine Drive.

He plunged onto the rear tenement roof and then landed in a neighbouring courtyard, suffering life-threatening and life-changing head injuries that left him spending six months in hospital.

The HSE investigation found that the company had not fitted edge protection, which could have prevented the fall.

As a result, B&C Roofing was charged with a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and it pleaded guilty in the hearing at Truro Magistrates Court. It was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,627.

Speaking after the case, an HSE inspector said: "Mr Hopkin suffered major, life-changing injuries and there was a real possibility that the fall could have proved fatal.

"Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and it’s crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures such as edge protection are put in place to control the risks of harm from falls."

HSE guidance lists a number of tasks that employers have to carry out to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The law stipulates that working at height is defined as a situation where a fall would be likely to cause an injury. It notes that such work must be properly planned and organised, that those undertaking such labour are trained to do so, that a risk assessment is carried out, the right work equipment is used, there is proper management of work on fragile surfaces and that the equipment being used is inspected and maintained properly.

In this case, the organisation and use of equipment were the areas where the company failed to adhere to guidelines.

Expert Opinion
This incident indicates the risks posed to those who perform roles at height. Falls while undertaking these tasks are one of the most common workplace accidents and we have seen a number of cases where employees are seriously injured or killed as a result of such incidents.

“In this avoidable incident, Mr Hopkin suffered severe head injuries that resulted in six months of hospital treatment. The Health and Safety Executive found that the company had not implemented safety measures and equipment that would have prevented the fall. Hopefully this prosecution will highlight the need for employers to comply with Work and Height Regulations 2005 to avoid such life-changing incidents in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner