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Farmer in Court for roof fall failings (16th February 2015)

The partner of an East Sussex farm has been fined for safety failings after a worker was seriously injured in a three metre fall through a fragile cow shed roof.

The worker sustained fractures of five vertebrae and two ribs, and cracked his left leg socket in an incident on the 15th September last year.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the farmer and established that more could and should have been done to prevent the fall.

The worker was sent on the roof to repair a leaking internal gutter. He accessed the top of the roof by ladder before walking along the concrete gutter that collected water from the surrounding roof sheets.

Whilst on top of the building he noticed a crack on one of the sheets that also required attention. However, as he rested his foot on an adjacent sheet to take a proper look it snapped, causing him to lose his balance. He fell forward through the cracked sheet and crashed on to the concrete floor below.

The Managing Director of the farm was found to be ultimately responsible for how work at the farm was planned and managed. There was no agreed method of work in place on the day of the accident. The Health and Safety Executive served four improvement notices to ensure that any further work at height was properly planned and managed using the correct equipment and method.

The Health and Safety Executive emphasised in this case that the onus was on the Managing Director to ensure that roof repairs had to be better planned and managed to be sure that they were undertaken safely. Workers should not be left “to it”. According to the Health and Safety Executive, falls through fragile roofs account for almost a quarter of all work at height deaths, so it is absolutely vital that any such work is fully considered and that the correct equipment and working methods are used at all times. On this occasion a repair should have been completed from underneath avoiding the need to access the roof in the first place.

Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that “every employer should ensure that work at height is;
a. properly planned
b. “every employer shall ensure that work at height is appropriately supervised” and “every employer shall ensure that work at height is carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.”
Matthew Winder is a Senior Litigator Member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and our firms Senior Director. He practices at our Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow in Furness offices. He has a wide range of experience in dealing with work at height accidents and cases arising from injuries sustained on the farm and in the agricultural sector.

Matthew Winder can be seen at either our Lancaster, Barrow or Kendal offices. We also now offer a new service from Carlisle.

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