Scaffolder paralysed after roof fall

A scaffolding company has been fined £110,000 with costs after an employee was left paralysed following a fall through a barn roof.

The worker was placing scaffold boards along the ridge of the roof so that solar panels could be installed on the barn roof when he fell through the fragile roof onto a concrete floor below. He suffered severe injuries which have left him unable to talk, move or feed himself. 

The subsequent HSE investigation found that the scaffolding company had failed to provide a written method statement or risk assessment for the work, there was no fall protection in place, and trainee scaffolders were not supervised on site.  Commenting on the case the HSE investigator said, “The Company’s approach to health and safety was poor.  They failed to properly and safely plan the work they were contracted to carry out and failed to supervise inexperienced young workers.  The particular works would have been unfamiliar to the team and so the lack of thorough supervision was lamentable. ”

He concluded by stating that: “When working at height, there is a high likelihood of serious injury or death if safe procedures are not put in place and adequate steps taken to ensure they are followed.”

This is a tragic case and unfortunately it is not uncommon.  With at least 8 people dying each year as a result of falling from a height, falls from height are the second highest cause of death in agriculture.  Many more suffer broken bones or worse as in this case. Barns typically contain fragile materials so it's essential that before any work is undertaken a risk assessment is carried out by a competent person so that the work can be properly planned and the correct equipment used to protect those carrying out the work.

Protection must be provided for anyone who passes by or works near to the fragile material, such as during access along valley gutters, if the roof contains fragile roof lights or during access to working areas on a fragile roof.  Wherever possible fragile material should be covered and full edge protection provided to prevent access to it.  We offer a range of products such as the Board-Walk lightweight aluminium walkway and the Valley-Walk mobile safety cage which have been designed specifically to allow work to be carried out on fragile roofs such as in this case.

For further information on working on fragile roofs, please read our Blog Tackling the Issues of Fragile Roof Safety.