The latest case of two companies being fined £500k after a worker lost the use of his legs following a fall through a fragile skylight, is a sad example of what happens when people don’t plan work at height properly.
The court heard Grangewood Builders Ltd had been appointed as principal contractor to carry out refurbishment work at a large London house. The company then engaged Trenchco Ltd to carry out the specialist demolition work.
The HSE’s investigation found that although work was being carried out next to the plastic skylight, neither Grangewood nor Trenchco checked to see if the skylight was fragile or put measures in place to stop anyone falling through it.
The investigation also found that neither company planned the work adequately which meant that safe systems were not identified or implemented and that the Trenchco supervisor who was directly controlling the work had no formal supervision training. Some of the workers, including the 30 year old Romanian victim, had to rely on unofficial interpreters to pass on instructions and explain what the health and safety records contained.
Because of these failures, the Romanian construction worker fell through the fragile plastic skylight into a basement 3m below. He suffered a severed spine and is unlikely to walk again.
Following the hearing the HSE Inspector for the case said: “The risks relating to fragile skylights being fallen through and the simple solutions to avoid this are well known. The failings at the site were not limited to the unprotected plastic skylight. Other activities such as the demolishing of a roof without edge protection could also have resulted in a serious incident.
“While these companies may have wanted health and safety compliance, their failure to pay enough attention to their actual performance at the site resulted in a tragedy occurring. No one should go to work and return unable to walk again.”
Grangewood Builders Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay £7,025.98 in costs.
Trenchco Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and was fined £270,000 with £7,025.98 in costs.
Falls through fragile rooflights continue to account for the majority of fall from height fatalities, yet these types of accident can easily be avoided. All work at height must be planned properly by a competent person so that appropriate measures can be put in place to ensure the work can be carried out safely. This means using suitable equipment and making sure those carrying out the work are provided with adequate information, training and supervision.