Director fined after worker’s fatal fall through roof

The director of a building firm has been prosecuted after a self-employed contractor fell to his death through a fragile roof at an industrial building in Penryn.

Paul Gibbons, 59, who lived in Porthleven, was carrying out re-roofing work for Acryflor Ltd at the Kernick Road Industrial Estate on 22 September 2008 when he fell eight metres through a fragile part of the asbestos cement roof onto the floor below. He was taken to hospital but died of his injuries later that day.

An HSE investigation into the incident found that Onyx Europe Ltd, (formerly Acryflor Ltd) had failed to put adequate safety measures in place at the site despite the risks involved with working at height.

On the 3rd of May, Truro Crown Court heard the work had not been adequately planned. No safety nets or crash deck platforms had been provided to mitigate the effects of a fall.

HSE Inspector Jon Harris, speaking after the hearing said:

“Mr Gibbons’ death could have been prevented if the work had been planned properly and industry standards, such as providing netting, had been applied. The risks of working at height are well-known and falls through fragile materials are the cause of one in five deaths in the construction industry.Acryflor Ltd had a duty of care to Mr Gibbons not to expose him to risk as far as was reasonably practical. Mr Williams, as a director of Acryflor, shared that duty.The company should have employed a planning co-ordinator to develop a construction plan for this work and the project should have been overseen by someone with appropriate knowledge and experience.Safety nets are the industry recognised standard for this purpose and in this case were installed following the incident.”

Matthew Peter Williams, of Trelan Farm, Menerdue Lane, Carnmenellis, Redruth pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay costs of £2,500 after the judge heard he was £1.5 million in debt and had an annual income of £15,000.

Source: HSE May 2012

LST Comment: Another unfortunate fall death. The Working at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 05) and the CDM regulations 2007 both require competent staff to plan supervise and conduct work.

WAHR 05 advise the following methodology: AVOID, PREVENT, MITIGATE.

AVOID falling (in other words don’t work at height, find another way to conduct the function). If however this cannot be achieved then look for methods to PREVENT persons or objects from falling; for example, barriers, toe-boards or any other means of physical guard.

The last option is only viable if you cannot achieve the former two options. That option is MITIGATION. For example, methods that would prevent harm should someone or something fall, e.g. harnesses and lanyards, nets, air bags etc.

Rest assured if you fail to plan work at height then you plan to FALL.

May 21, 2012 | Categories: Lighthouse Blog, News |
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