A roofing company has been forced to pay out nearly £25,000 after a young worker suffered multiple injuries when a fragile asbestos roof gave way beneath him.
The 23-year-old employee from Dagenham, who does not wish to be named, was working for Hertfordshire-based Reactive Roofing (UK) on 3 May 2011, making temporary repairs to the roof of a business park premises in Hoddesdon when he plunged four metres to the floor below.
He sustained serious fractures to his skull and an eye socket, a fractured wrist, major bruising to his back, a gash to his left leg and cuts to his head which required stitches. He was hospitalised for a total of five days.
HSE’s investigation of the incident found the company had failed to adequately plan the work or provide safety measures to protect workers from falls.
“It is vital for those responsible for planning work to ensure they follow the correct precautions when anyone is working at height,” said HSE inspector Paul Hoskins after the hearing. “Reactive Roofing’s workers were exposed to unacceptable risks of falling from the roof or through the fragile asbestos sheets for several days. Their failures led to a young man being severely injured but could very easily have resulted in a fatality.”
Stevenage Magistrates’ Court heard on 4 July that workers relied solely on scaffold boards placed over the fragile asbestos roof sheets as they overlaid the roof with wooden frames made of battens and covered in tarpaulin. While installing the final frame, the worker walked across an unprotected area of the roof and it gave way beneath him.
HSE told the court the proposed approach of using scaffold boards in isolation was inherently unsafe, as workers would have been at risk during the placement and removal of the boards, as well as during the installation of the wooden frames. This meant the workers were at risk of falling through the roof at several points during the project. Reactive Roofing had not fully assessed the risks and should have ensured that suitable equipment, such as platforms, coverings or guard rails was installed.
Reactive Roofing (UK) Ltd was fined a total of £17,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,077 after pleading guilty to breaching section 4(1)(a) and 9(2)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
“Simple measures such as using barriers to prevent access to fragile areas or safely installing adequate coverings over the fragile roof sheets would have meant workers were protected,” Hoskins added.
“It is essential that the hazards associated with working at height are recognised and understood by those carrying out the work. You should never work on a fragile roof without a safe system of work.”
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