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Fined For Neglect

Standforst             Glasgow company fined for safety failings after a worker narrowly escaped major injury after falling 5m through a fragile rooflight.

David Jack, then aged 53, was working on a roof at John Watson and Co Ltd’s premises with a colleague when the incident happened on in November 2011. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that he was sub-contracted by a regular contractor for the company and had been painting the roof when he fell through a fragile fibreglass rooflight into factory premises below, a printing machine breaking his fall before he hit the ground. He sustained a cut leg needing stitches, blunt force abdominal injury and a sprained wrist, resulting in an overnight stay in hospital but returned to work two weeks later.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed a number of failures in the company’s management of health and safety. on the roof. On the day of the incident, Mr Jack and an apprentice employed by John Watson & Co, accessed the 5m high roof via a ladder, carrying the 40 20kg tins of paint needed to complete the job. The workers had been told about the presence of fragile rooflights but there were no measures in place to prevent them falling from the roof edge or falling through the rooflights.

HSE inspectors found that the company’s health and safety consultants had not been asked for advice on safe working at height. In addition, John Watson & Co failed to ensure their contractor carried out a suitable risk assessment to identify the safety measures required to control the risk of falls.

After the incident, HSE issued a Notice prohibiting work on the roof with immediate effect. The company complied with this and later employed a roofing contractor to carry out the necessary repairs. John Watson & Co Ltd was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector, Graeme McMinn, commented: “John Watson & Co made no efforts to ensure that their contractor took the necessary safety precautions to prevent falls through fragile rooflights, or from exposed open edges on the roof.

“Simple measures such as using barriers to prevent access to fragile areas, or installing coverings over the rooflights, could easily have prevented this worker getting injured.”

Mr McMinn said the workers were exposed to unacceptable risks of falling from the roof or through the rooflights for several days. “This incident could very easily have had much more severe consequences.”

On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile rooflight, accounting for almost a fifth of all the fatalities caused by a fall from height in the construction industry. Many others suffer permanent disabling injury.

For more information about working at height, log on to the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk/falls/index.htm

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