Badly planned roof work leaves a man paralysed
Construction safety is often in the spotlight due to the nature of the work and the relatively high number of accidents and deaths that happen in the sector.
Construction safety is often in the spotlight due to the nature of the work and the relatively high number of accidents and deaths that happen in the sector. But in fact the farming industry actually has a worse record despite the fact that a lot of cases go unrecorded due to DIY site practices, remote locations and a lower level of HSE inspector visits.
This sad case combines a farming site and a building contractor, but one with lax safety standards that had terrible results.
Fragile farm shed roof
David Miller Contracts Ltd was engaged to repair a shed roof at a farm in Lauder in the Borders, Scotland. The contractor recognised that the roof material was probably fragile but it did not make a risk assessment of the actual site. And when it did commence work, it had not planned it properly.
- the plastic roof lights could have been worked on from a working platform sited under the roof
- failing that, safety nets or harnesses would have provided secondary protection for workers
- only crawl boards were provided, with no handrails to help avoid people stepping on the roof
- no other measures existed to avoid anyone standing on the weak roof materials
A relatively elderly employee, Neil Knox (69), was sent onto the roof, using a ladder and the crawl boards. He was an experienced worker but had not been specifically trained in doing roof work. On 14th March 2013 he had replaced 3 plastic roof lights then was called to have a tea break. After he then went back up on the roof, he fell through the fourth plastic light panel, landing nearly 4 metres below on the floor.
After an airlift to hospital, he was found to be suffering from broken ribs and sternum and both his lungs were punctured. His spine was broken in two places, causing damage to the spinal cord and leaving him paralysed. He is now wheelchair bound with no ability to move or feel his legs, and his lungs are only 50% efficient.
At Jedburgh Sheriff Court, David Miller Contracts Ltd, of Steading Cottage, Newlands Farm, Gifford, East Lothian, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 4 of the Work At Height Regulations 2005. The fine was £50,000.
The records show that in an average year, seven people die from a fall through a fragile roof or roof light, while a lot more, such as this unfortunate man, are permanently disabled.
Any contractor involved with working at height should consult the guide at http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls. And if anyone is in any doubt about the best way to specify and approach a job of this kind, they should engage a firm of specialist construction health & safety consultants.