Neglecting safety when working at height can have fatal consequences- as a Plymouth roofer recently discovered

by Alex on January 27, 2014

Post image for Neglecting safety when working at height can have fatal consequences- as a Plymouth roofer recently discovered

Photo: Sascha Kohlmann

Ensuring sufficient safety when working at height should be an obvious measure for the sensible tradesman. But for one Plymouth-based roofer, a simple oversight left a worker dead and his firm in the dock.

The 58-year-old worker was decorating the exterior of a house in Lipson, Plymouth, when the ladder he was working on twisted free, causing him to fall seven feet to the concrete below. After being discharged from hospital with five fractured ribs and damaged vertebrae, he was soon readmitted with internal injuries and died nine days after the initial accident.

An HSE investigation discovered that the on-site conditions were far below standard. The worker had been charged with decorating curved metalwork, which presented a potential hazard for work at height. This risk could have been mitigated with the installation of scaffolding, or by tying the ladder to the house exterior, but neither measure was carried out.

Worse still, it was later discovered that the ladder in question was a domestic type rather than a sturdier trade model, with a maximum working load 15kg lower than the weight of the worker.

It’s careless oversights like these that make falls from height the most common cause of fatal injury to workers in the UK. According to HSE statistics, 31% of reported fatal injuries in 2012/13 were the result of a fall. During the same period, 2,522 workers suffered major injuries from falls from height.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that employers, the self-employed and contractors are responsible for upholding safety levels when work at height takes place. As part of the Regulations, they must ensure proper planning and risk assessment is carried out, and appropriate safety measures, such as installing scaffolding, working platforms and guard rails, are put into place

Failure to do so can be both fatal and costly, as the Plymouth roofer soon found out. After pleading guilty to a breach of the Regulations, he was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

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