Fall from Height Accident Leads to Prosecution

Six Metre Fall Leads to Prosecution 25918

An Orkney-based building company has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an employee was injured when he fell from a height of six metres through a roof sheet.

Wilbert Paterson, 58 at the time of the accident, was one of three workers employed by Daniel Harcus Construction to repair a fragile roof at a farm in Westray when the accident happened in April 2012.

Fall from Height Accident

Kirkwall Sheriff Court was told that Mr Paterson and his two work colleagues were lifted onto the roof of the structure via a telehandler.

However, the crew did not have any crawl ladders or other safety measures in place, meaning they risked falling to the ground because of the roof sheet's lack of strength, something the project was meant to rectify.

Mr Paterson managed to successfully replace two broken fibre cement sheets on the roof and began moving over from one pitch of the roof to the other when the fall from height accident happened.

The experienced builder, who worked for Daniel Harcus Construction for 24 years, stepped on a fibre sheet, but it fractured under his weight and collapsed. Mr Paterson was sent crashing to the floor six metres below, where he sustained serious injuries.

Broken Bones

After being rushed to hospital, the 58-year-old was diagnosed with a broken left arm, multiple fractures, vascular damage to his left foot and pelvic bruising.

Mr Paterson still suffers from pain in his left foot and arm, meaning he has been unable to get back to his job because of its intense physical nature. It is unclear whether he will ever be able to return to work.

Work Accident Investigation

A work accident investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Daniel Harcus Construction had not come up with a safe alternative system of work once it became apparent that existing crawling boards could not be used.

The curved roof the builders were working on meant this would not be plausible, but other options, including the use of harnesses or scaffolding, should have been explored in order to ensure staff members were kept safe.

For its part in the accident, Daniel Harcus Construction, of Rapness, Orkney, was fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

No Risk Assessment

Following the trial, HSE principal inspector Niall Miller said, "This was an entirely avoidable workplace accident. Falls from height remain one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and it is fortunate that Mr Paterson survived the fall from height, albeit with serious injuries.

"Daniel Harcus Construction should have carried out a risk assessment before work started. The dangers of fragile roofs are well-known in the industry and consideration should have been given to alternative approaches, for example replacing the boards from underneath."

Falls from height accidents remain common in the UK construction industry, with around seven people killed per year after falling through fragile roofs or roof lights, while many more suffer permanent disabilities.

By Chris Stevenson