Contractor fined after worker is paralysed

A Scottish contractor has been fined £50,000 after a worker was left paralysed when he fell around 4 metres through a fragile rooflight.

The worker, who didn’t have any formal training in roofwork, was carrying out roof repairs on a farm shed for the contractor.  He climbed onto the roof using a ladder and crawlerboards so that he could access the rooflights. After removing three of the rooflights he was called down by a colleague for a tea break.  The worker is unable to remember what happened next but a colleague reported that he knew he had gone back onto the roof as he heard him moving about. He then heard a loud noise and found the worker lying on the floor under a rooflight which had a large hole in it.

The worker was airlifted to hospital where it was found that he had fractured his spine in two places, broke several ribs and punctured his lung. As a result of his injuries he is now confined to a wheelchair as he has no movement in his legs.

The HSE investigation found that the contractor had identified that the roof was likely to be fragile, but did not carry out a site specific risk assessment and failed to plan the work properly.  If these had been carried out, the company would have been able to determine that the work could have been done from a working platform beneath the roof, or by using safety nets or harnesses.  The crawlerboards were the only measure in place to prevent someone standing on the fragile roof or the rooflights, but these did not have any handrails to prevent workers from stepping off the boards.

Commenting on the case the HSE inspector said, “This was an entirely avoidable incident.  The dangers of fragile roofs are well known and consideration should have been given to using a platform underneath the rooflights or installing safety nets.  The system of work planned by the company was unsafe, resulting in terrible life-changing injuries.”

When working on roofs, particularly fragile roofs, it’s essential that a risk assessment is undertaken, the work is properly planned and that the correct equipment is used to protect those carrying out the work.  We offer a range of products, such as the Board-Walk lightweight aluminium walkway, which have been designed specifically to allow work to be carried out on fragile roofs such as in this case.