Firm Prosecuted Over Worker Roof Fall

Sawmill Firm Fined After Employee's Eight-Foot Plunge

26.09.2014

A sawmilling firm from Dumfriesshire has been fined for safety failings after one of its staff was severely injured following a fall through a fragile roof.

The incident in February 2013 occurred at Penkiln Sawmill Company's Wigtown premises when Tony Heron, who was then aged 56, was putting tin sheets on a shed.

He had accessed the roof via an adjacent shed and was carrying the sheets on foot to the point where he could attach them to trusses and screw them into position.

The roof he was crossing had fragile skylights and he stepped on one of these, plunging eight feet and suffering multiple fractures to his back and ribs, as well as a head cut requiring stitches. He spent several weeks in a back brace and has not been able to return to his old job. So serious was his back injury that he now has limited mobility in his spine, a problem that is expected to be permanent.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed no risk assessment had been carried out by the firm about the dangers of working on a fragile roof. Nor had a safe system been installed, which could have included platforms, guard rails and edge protection. In addition, the firm had not given Mr Heron the instruction, training or supervision required for his task.

Penkiln Sawmill Company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 during the hearing at Stranraer Sheriff Court. It was fined £10,000.

Commenting after the hearing, HSE inspector Lesley Hammond said: "This was an entirely avoidable incident. Falling from height is one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and it is fortunate that Mr Heron survived such a fall, albeit with significant injuries.

"Penkiln Sawmill Company should have been aware of the risks and the precautions that needed to be taken, before starting the work."  

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states that every employer has a duty to keep their staff safe and healthy "so far as is reasonably practicable".

If you or a loved one has suffered a back injury while at work and it wasn't your fault, our specialist accident at work claims team could help you to claim compensation. Read our Back Injury at Work Claims page for more information.