Incomplete building safety systems put roofing company in court


When you carry out the required risk assessments and method statements of today’s building safety scene, you must do more than tick the boxes or be satisfied with having written the words. Here is an example of what can go wrong when there is no proper follow-through.

For a warehouse roofing project, the risk assessment was prepared by a worker of principal contractor K & DE Barnett and Sons, and a director of the firm signed it off. However, it was inadequate and the sub-contractor who actually had to do the work had not seen, assessed or discussed it with K & DE Barnett before he began the work.

Subcontractor not briefed

The unnamed young sub-contractor from Blaby, Leics. was on top of a loading bay canopy of the warehouse in Melton Mowbray on 11th October 2013, and he was in the process of lifting a roofing sheet off a stack of sheets, when he overbalanced and he stepped on to the roof light. It broke under his weight, causing him to fall through and drop over 5 metres to the concrete floor.

The victim was airlifted to hospital where he was treated for wrist and pelvis fractures. He also had suffered bruises on his spine and lungs. He could not work for 3 months after the accident but it is good to record that he has since returned to work (albeit not in the roofing trade).

On investigating, the HSE inspectors concluded that K & DE Barnett’s plan for the work was inadequate, in that it:

  • was unclear on whether fragile roofing was involved in the work
  • failed to set out a safe system of work that had to be used
  • was silent on personal protection (e.g. a harness)
  • did not call for safety nets to be deployed

So there was a lapse in the systems at a company where the lead inspector recognised it had “a fairly well-defined health and safety management system and is used to producing risk assessments and method statements for all types of roof work”. This led to a day in court and a fine, in addition to the unfortunate injury to the worker.

At Leicester Magistrates’ Court the firm pleaded guilty under the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Its fine was £6,666, plus £523 in costs.

A five-metre fall is often fatal so the young man’s escape was lucky. As the inspector commented -

Work at height on or near fragile material is a major risk activity that can result in fatal or severe injury. The risks are foreseeable and there is ample guidance available on how to comply with the law and carry out work safely.

The guidance he mentions can be found at

And guidance on the spot on all aspects of your construction safety management can be obtained by arranging a consultation with one of the safety consultants from McCormack Benson Health & Safety.