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Employee Fall Costs Contractor £ 11,000 +


1:43pm 4th July 2013

An agricultural engineering contractor has to pay more than £11,000 in fines and costs  after an employee fell, breaking three vertebrae and a rib at a farm in Winfrith.

David Clark dropped four metres through the fragile roof of a farm building and was off work for nearly two months

Mr Clark was on a crawl board working for contractor Michael Fry replacing a barn roof at a farm when the roof of a lean-to building adjacent to the barn collapsed beneath him, sending him crashing to the ground below.

The incident, on 14 December 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and yesterday (3 July) HSE prosecuted his employer, Michael Fry, of Martinstown, near Dorchester, at Weymouth Magistrates' Court.

The court heard Mr Fry was hired to replace the barn roof and build a   new single dwelling at the farm. Part way through the job, there was a problem with the mobile elevated work platform (MEWP), making it difficult to access the main roof.

The lean-to had a fragile asbestos cement roof, which was not being replaced as part of the contract. Only two crawling boards were laid across the roof of the lean-to and workers had to walk across them to access the main roof. Mr Clark was standing on one of the boards when the roof gave way and he fell to the ground below.

HSE found significant 'fall from height' risks at the site. As access onto the fragile roof could not be avoided, edge protection should have been installed around the perimeter of the roof and staging used to spread the load.  Unless all access is on staging and platforms fitted with guardrails, safety nets should be installed under the roof or a harness system should be used to reduce the effects of any fall. None of these measures had been put in place.

Michael James Fry, of New Grove Barn, Martinstown, Dorchester,  pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £2000 and ordered to pay costs of £9440.   

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector James Powell said:

"The dangers of working at height are well known, yet poor safety standards and lack of safeguards still exist among some contractors.

"In this case, the work had not been properly planned. Mr Clark and fellow employees were working on a fragile roof and yet Michael Fry had neglected to implement basic safety measures to protect them and minimise the risks of falls.

"For the last ten years or so there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents involving falls through fragile roofing materials on agricultural buildings.  This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all contractors to ensure working at height is properly planned and robust safety precautions are put in place.

"Employers have a legal duty to manage safety and failing to do can end in tragedy."

Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

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