A roofing company has been ordered to pay a £17,500 fine following a workplace accident in which a member of staff fell and was left with multiple injuries.
The 23-year-old worker, who opted to remain anonymous, was working for Potters Bar-based company Reactive Roofing at a business park in Hoddesdon in 2011 when he went on to a fragile asbestos cement roof in order to make temporary repairs.
However, the roof gave way beneath the man and he fell from a height of four metres. As a result of the accident he fractured his skull, an eye socket and his wrist.
In addition, he was left with serious bruising to his back, various cuts to his head and a gash in his left leg. The worker was required to undergo hospital treatment over a period of five days.
HSE Work Accident Investigation
A work accident investigation subsequently carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a number of failings at the site that led to the accident.
For instance, it discovered that the work had not been planned adequately, while insufficient safety measures to protect employees from falls from height had been implemented.
Scaffold boards had been placed over the asbestos roof sheets, and wooden frames made of battens and covered in tarpaulin were then overlaid across the roof.
The injured workman had been installing the last frame when the accident occurred, as he stepped on an area that was not protected.
During a hearing at Stevenage Magistrates' Court, the HSE argued that using scaffold boards in isolation was "inherently unsafe", while it also pointed out that employees had been put in danger while placing and removing the boards, as well as when they were installing the wooden frames.
The HSE stated that this practice meant the risk of falling through the roof existed at various times throughout the project.
Reactive Roofing pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Stevenage Magistrates' Court therefore imposed a fine of £17,500. The company was also ordered to pay more than £7,000 in costs.
Paul Hoskins, an inspector at the HSE, responded to the sentencing by describing the risks faced by Reactive Roofing's employees over several days as "unacceptable".
"Their failures led to a young man being severely injured, but could easily have resulted in a fatality," he commented.
"Simple measures such as using barriers to prevent access to fragile areas or safely installing adequate coverings over the fragile roof sheets would have meant workers were protected."
Mr Hoskins insisted it is vital that the people in charge of planning work make sure they take the right precautions in order to safeguard anybody who is operating above ground level.
He added that understanding and recognising the hazards associated with working at height is also "essential" among those who are carrying out the tasks in question.
This, he stated, is because people should never operate on a fragile roof unless a safe system of work has been devised beforehand.