A Gwent-based property development company and its director have been fined for putting the lives of workers at serious risk through unsafe roof work.
Formaction Ltd was installing a new roof on a unit at The Gulf Works, Penarth Road, Cardiff in June 2013, when a member of the public spotted the dangers and informed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of their concerns.
An immediate inspection by HSE found three people working on a fragile pitched roof between five and eight metres above ground, without any measures in place to stop people falling through the roof, or off its edges onto the concrete below.
Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn were prosecuted at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court today (4 April) for a series of breaches over work at height regulations.
The court was told HSE served a Prohibition Notice, stopping work at the site until the correct safety measures had been put in place and an asbestos survey conducted.
HSE found there was nothing in place at the site to cushion anyone who did fall, such as safety nets, specialist airbags or beanbags, and nobody was wearing a harness or fall arrest system.
In addition, safe access to and from the roof had not been provided and the workers were seen walking over the sloping fragile roof and climbing over the top of the safety rails on a cherry picker.
HSE said suitable staging boards to spread the load over a fragile surface should have been in place, and guard rails set up around the open edges.
The court was also told that Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn, who was one of the workers on site, had been caught by HSE undertaking dangerous work at height on four occasions between them since 2007. The company buys, refurbishes and rents out industrial units across South Wales.
Formaction Ltd of Glandwr Industrial Estate, Aberbeeg, Gwent, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(3) and 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,323. Derek Bawn, of Newbridge, Gwent, pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulations through Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined a total of 6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,323.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Liam Osborne said:
“Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn knew perfectly well that what they were doing was seriously unsafe and illegal, because of previous enforcement action by HSE and a warning of prosecution if they continued to work in this way. The workers were deliberately exposed to serious danger because of the serious neglect of safety precautions.
“Carrying out roof work, especially on a fragile surface without anything to stop people falling through, or off, a roof is very dangerous and is an extreme risk to take.
“The dangers of working at height are well known in the roofing industry yet poor safety standards and lack of safeguards still exist among some contractors. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to anyone undertaking roof work, including senior managers and directors, to plan and carry out this work professionally, and safely.”
District Judge Bodfan Jenkins said:
“This is a serious case, even though there was no injury. This was a death waiting to happen and was a very serious dereliction of duty.”
This story serves as an illustration that a committed safety culture needs to be employed throughout a company from the very top at Director level down to Operatives. Without this ‘buy in’ from everyone within the company, safety standards will not be met and both the likelihood and consequence of an incident will greatly increase.
The sanctions imposed upon the company are, in my opinion, fair but further monitoring of the companies activities and on going safety standards should be maintained to ensure further breaches and serious accidents are avoided in the future.’
(Rick March, LST)