Continued unsafe roof working is punished


When a client firm decides to be its own principal contractor on a building project, then it is increasing the risk that something will go wrong – it is highly unlikely that the company will have the same attention to detail and to construction health and safety that would apply if a specialist building firm was appointed.

This case of repeated shortcomings when working at height, despite HSE warnings, should serve as a lesson to others who may be similarly tempted to go it alone.

Farm company worked dangerously

 The chain of responsibility for the project to construct new poultry buildings on a farm site at Wigtoft, Lincs, in March 2012 ran as follows -

  1. GW Padley Poultry Ltd was acting as its own principal contractor
  2. The buildings were supplied to the poultry company by Harlow Bros Ltd, Loughborough
  3. K & M Tomlinson Ltd, together with Philip Bates, were subcontracted by that firm to erect the buildings

It should be noted that both Harlow Bros. and Philip Bates had previously been convicted for carrying out work on other poultry house roofs without fitting proper edge protection.

When Health & Safety Executive inspectors visited the farm on 13th March 2012, there were 4 men working on the new gable roof, which at its highest was 6 metres above ground. However the contractors had no edge protection or scaffolding in use. In order to get back down to the ground, workers needed to walk some 10 metres along the sloping roof and then climb down an unsecured ladder.

The Director of K & M Tomlinson, Kenneth Tomlinson, was issued on the spot with a Prohibition Noticeto cease working on the roof until he had arranged for edge protection to be applied.

Three days afterwards, the inspector returned. The roof work was finished.

  • At one end of the eaves there was a tower scaffold
  • At the other end, twelve airbags sat on the ground
  • No edge protection had been erected, contrary to the Notice

Returning later the same day with another inspector, the HSE representative discovered Philip Bates and other workers, up on the roofs of two poultry sheds: yet the scaffolding had by then been taken apart.

Furthermore, the airbags were loose and would have not been effective in cushioning a fall.

And a forklift truck had a working platform dangerously attached to its prongs.

second Prohibition Notice was served, preventing further work on the shed roofs: plus Enforcement Notices. These were served on GW Padley Poultry, Harlow Brothers and Mr. Bates to prevent them working on sloping roofs until they had installed correct edge protection and internal fall protection measures.

Finally, HSE’s unhappiness with the lack of professional building management on the site led the inspectors to serve an Improvement Notice on the poultry firm requiring them to appoint a competent site manager. (Despite being the ‘principal contractor’, the firm had no-one actually on site!)

Harlow Brothers did then at least set up a lifeline and harness system for safe working at height. This did not satisfy inspectors on their next visit and they issued another Improvement Notice.

When the case came to Lincoln Crown Court, there were five sentences as a result of this catalogue of safety failings.

  1. GW Padley Poultry Ltd. of Nottingham entered a guilty plea to breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Its fine was £9,000 and it had to pay £15,000 of prosecution costs.
  2. Harlow Brothers Ltd of Long Whatton, nr. Loughborough, Leics, breached the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 on 13th and 16th March 2012, as well as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The fine was £30,000 and costs were £15,000.
  3. K&M Tomlinson Ltd of Long Eaton was guilty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. The fine was £1,000.
  4. Its director Kenneth Tomlinson also pleaded guilty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,000: he also had to pay £3,000 in costs.
  5. Philip Bates of Leasingham, Lincs, breached the Health and Safety at Work etc .Act 1974 He had a larger fine of £4,500, maybe due to his previous record, and his costs were £5,550.

There was evidence from this case that the HSE is prepared to punish individuals for flagrant safety abuses, as well as their firms. Clients and contractors should be on notice that they cannot expect to get away with anything less than best practice on site. To ensure that your projects are up to the required standards, call McCormack Benson Health & Safety. And for a quick check on your safety requirements when working on roofs, click here.