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The Managing Director (MD) of an East Sussex farm has been fined for safety failings after an employee plunged three metres to the ground through a fragile cowshed roof.
The worker, who is in his 50s, suffered a cracked left leg socket as well as five broken vertebrae and two broken ribs in the work accident last September. He now has limited mobility and has been unable to return to work.
The MD of the farm was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work accident investigation established that “more could and should have been done to prevent the fall.”
Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court heard the employee was working on top of the shed to repair a leaking gutter. After accessing the roof by ladder, he walked alongside a concrete gutter that collected water from the surrounding roof sheets.
When he noticed one of the sheets was cracked he bent down to take a closer look. However, when he placed his foot on an adjacent sheet it snapped, causing him to lose his balance and fall through the cracked sheet onto the concrete floor below.
The court heard there was no agreed job procedure in place and the MD – who was responsible for how the work was planned and managed – simply left the employee to complete the job despite him having had no formal training on working safely at height.
After the HSE served four improvement notices to ensure future work at height was properly managed, the MD was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £881 in costs after pleading guilty to three separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
This man’s injuries could easily have been prevented if the job had been properly planned and managed and the correct equipment and methods had been used.
Falls from height are one of the main causes of fatal work accidents in agriculture with half of deaths and serious injuries involving work on fragile roofs. Such work typically involves the use of ladders, scaffolds and other temporary work platforms however, falls frequently occur because equipment is defective, inappropriate, or used incorrectly.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 cover all work activities where people could fall and injure themselves and employers have a duty to ensure work at height is properly managed and carried out by people who are competent to do the work.
Employees should never access fragile roofs unless adequate safety measures are provided to prevent people falling through them. No one must ever work on or from, or walk over, fragile roofs unless platforms or covers are provided to adequately support their weight.
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