A scaffolding firm has been fined after a worker was left paralysed when he fell through a fragile barn roof.
The employee was placing scaffold boards along the top of a barn at Gaddesden Home Farm in July 2013 in preparation for the installation of solar panels when he plunged eight metres through the asbestos roof onto a concrete floor.
He suffered a brain stem injury as well as multiple injuries to his head and neck. He also sustained a punctured lung, broken ribs and a lacerated liver. He is now unable to feed himself or talk and requires residential care.
St Albans Crown Court heard how the worker had not been wearing a safety harness at the time of the accident, there were no fall prevention measures such as safety netting in place, and no-one was supervising the work.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that the company had never provided a written method statement and no proper risk assessment had been made prior to the work taking place.
After Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited of Seymour Crescent, Hemel Hempstead pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, the company was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £22,596 in costs.
This tragic accident has undoubtedly left a family absolutely devastated. The fact that an employee has been left so badly injured he is unable to even feed himself or talk because his employer failed to risk assess or ensure adequate fall prevention measures were in place for the job they asked him to do, is frankly appalling.
The HSE investigation found that there was no appropriate supervision of inexperienced and trainee scaffolders on site. This is a basic requirement in an employers’ duty of responsibility to their workers.
Working at height is inherently dangerous and carries with it a high likelihood of serious injury or death if basic safety procedures such as the provision of equipment such as safety harnesses and ensuring all work is planned and supervised, are simply ignored or not properly implemented.
Sadly, accidents at work occur too often because employers cut corners on safety and fail to ensure workers are adequately trained or equipped. Safety is paramount and if workers are uncomfortable when asked to work at height because they feel they are not fully trained, competent or confident, it is important they notify their employers. The same rule should apply if workers know a colleague isn’t sufficiently trained or confident. Clearly, it is far safer to speak up than risk your own or someone else’s life.
Employers must keep their staff safe at work. If workers are given equipment that they think is unsuitable for the job they’ve been asked to do, they have the right to refuse to carry out the work until the proper equipment is made available.
Matthew Tomlinson is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Sheffield, specialising in work accident compensation claims.
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