Health & Safety – Company fined following fall through roof

McKeown Groundworks Limited, based in Stranraer, plead guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2015 following an accident on one of their jobs. The case was heard by Sheriff Kenneth Robb in Stranraer Sheriff Court who handed the company a £12,000 fine.

The accident happened on the 24th May 2016 when a worker, who had been sub-contracted by McKeown Groundworks Limited, fell through the roof falling to the ground. The company had first thought that no work at height would be required, but following storm damage, they were asked to replace a section of the roof. It was thought that the work would not take long.

The 42 year old had been brought in to carry out repairs to the roof of a barn at Whiteley’s Farm in Stranraer. While walking along the roof, a translucent light panel broke under his weight. As a result of the fall, he suffered a compression fracture of the lower back.

The investigation carried out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to adequately plan and supervise the work at height, therefore no control measures were in place to prevent workers falling.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Helen Diamond said that the serious injuries sustained in this accident “could have easily been prevented had the company planned the work at height.” She went on to say that “work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, particularly on small projects.”

It’s important to get working at height right. Falls remain one of the biggest causes of serious workplace injury – with more than 40 people killed and 4,000 suffering major injuries every year.

All staff (this includes sub-contractors) must be properly trained and follow the simple hierarchy for managing work at height laid down in The Work at Height Regulations 2005:

AVOID work at height whenever it is possible to do so. Work must not be carried out at height if it is possible to carry out the work other than at height.

PREVENT a person from falling a distance liable to cause an injury. This includes work being done at an existing place of work and using existing means of access and egress. Falls should be prevented by taking suitable and sufficient measures, or, where this is not possible, sufficient work equipment to prevent a fall must be provided.

MINIMISE the distance and consequence of a fall by providing suitable work equipment or other measures.

Duty holders must also ensure the employment of capable and competent workers and that appropriate supervision of work at height operations is in place where a foreseeable risk is identified via risk assessment.

Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. Common cases include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces.

‘Work at height’ means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury (for example a fall through a fragile roof).

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