A building company and the director of a roofing firm have been ordered to pay sizeable fines following a workplace accident that led to an employee suffering serious injuries.
In 2012, a self-employed roofer had been under the control of John Donald of John Donald Roofing, which had been sub-contracted to carry out work on a building project by Right Angle Ltd.
During work on a project in which three residential properties were being refurbished and extended, the unnamed worker was at one point clearing materials from a flat roof.
He saw a piece of ply board that he thought was debris so he picked it up. However, the board was actually concealing a roof light void. The man, who was aged 28 at the time of the accident, ended up falling from a height of 5.6 metres.
Multiple bones in his back were fractured and broken during the fall, while his thigh, lungs and diaphragm were bruised.
The extent of the employee's injuries meant he could not return to work for more than a year, and he has been left with a persistent back problem that requires treatment in hospital. This means he has had to seek employment elsewhere.
HSE Work Accident Investigation
A work accident investigation launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the accident and a number of failings were identified at the building site.
The HSE criticised John Donald and Right Angle Ltd for failing to take adequate steps to mark and protect voids in the roof.
HSE Inspectors described the measures that had been in place as "totally unacceptable" and warned that many workers on the site could have experienced a similar accident. The HSE also identified a number of other shortcomings on the site, including open staircases without handrails and a lack of edge protection on scaffolding.
In addition, excess rubbish and debris on the building site was said to have created numerous slip and trip hazards, while there were various fire risks with insufficient prevention measures in place.
The HSE concluded that the defendants had not properly planned, managed or monitored the work, which meant that the accident had been completely avoidable.
Right Angle Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was handed a £15,000 fine in a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court. The company was also ordered to pay £5,375 in costs.
In addition, John Donald admitted breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £4,000, plus costs of £3,695.
Danielle Coppell, an inspector at the HSE, commented, "There were numerous failings on the part of Right Angle Ltd that exposed multiple operatives to a host of foreseeable risks, including falls, slips and trips.
"John Donald has to accept culpability as an experienced roofer who should have known better. He instructed the injured worker to work in an unsafe area where there were wholly insufficient measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall."
Ms Coppell added that the consequence of their shortcomings is that a young man has been left with life-changing spinal injuries, from which he might never completely recover.
By Francesca Witney