Life changing injuries after fragile rooflight fall

A Surrey-based cleaning firm has been prosecuted after an employee suffered life-changing injuries following a fall through a fragile rooflight.

The victim was part of a small team sent by the company to clean 24 acrylic rooflights at a car rental premises in Eastbourne.  He inspected a cleaned light from ground level before returning to the roof when he stepped on to one of the rooflights. The acrylic gave way and the victim fell some 6m through the rooflight to the concrete floor below.  As a result of the fall he suffered a skull fracture and brain damage, multiple arm and wrist fractures and broke several ribs. He has lost his sense of smell and taste, has impaired sight in one eye and is deaf in one ear.

The HSE’s subsequent investigation revealed that the safety precautions taken by the company were ‘grossly inadequate’. The workers had reached the roof using a mobile elevating platform but had only taken six scaffold boards to stand on while jet-washing the rooflights.

If the company had provided proper crawling boards with handrails and netting inside the building it could have ensured the safety of the workers.  Alternatively, had it hired a mobile working platform with an extended reach, the workers would not have needed to go onto the roof at all.

The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £5,741 in costs after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Work at Height Regulations.

After the case, the HSE inspector said:  “The victim of this case suffered life-threatening, and now life-changing, injuries and there is no doubt that this could have been a fatality. The risk assessment was not fit for the purpose and the result was the limited safety measures it took to protect the workforce were grossly inadequate. It is unacceptable for firms to put their employees at needless risk. There are several people killed each year and many more badly injured falling through fragile roofs. Work should be planned so no one needs to get onto the roof. Where it is necessary, safeguards such as edge protection, safety nets and roof stagings must be used.”

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