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Sole trader fined after worker injured

William Henry Swanson, trading as LTS Construction, has been fined after a worker suffered serious injuries when he fell through a fragile roof light of a grain store. LTS Construction has now ceased trading.

On 25 September 2019, an employee of Mr Swanson was working on a grain store roof to remove and replace damaged cement roof sheets and fragile roof lights. He stood on a moss-covered roof light which gave way beneath his weight. He fell approximately 4.5m onto the concrete floor below, sustaining injuries to his head, ribs, pelvis and wrist. He now suffers from short term memory loss and anxiety and has not worked since.

The HSE’s investigation found that Mr Swanson did not have suitable measures in place to access the roof or to prevent the risk of:

  1. falling from the edge of the roof and

  2. falling through roof lights.

According to the HSE, the accused should have considered the work at height hierarchy of control:

  1. the use of mobile elevated work platforms (if practicable) to avoid working on a roof containing fragile materials, or

  2. safe access to roof level, and

  3. roof edge protection to have prevented falls from the eaves and gable wall sections of the roof, and

  4. safety nets to have reduced fall risks when removing and replacing roof sheets, and

  5. the use of staging or crawling boards to spread the weight of persons who worked on areas of the roof that were fragile.

None of these measures were in place at the time of the accident.

William Henry Swanson of Watten, Wick, Caithness KW1 5UP pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(a) and (c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was fined £2,000.

After the hearing, HSE inspector, Liz Hunter said: “Those in control of working at height have a responsibility to implement safe work methods and to lead by example. They should communicate the work method clearly with the workers to demonstrate how fall risks will be prevented or reduced when working on or near fragile roof lights.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country. I have investigated numerous fatal and serious accidents caused by falls through fragile roof materials during construction and maintenance activities on farm buildings. The life changing injuries sustained by Mr Swanson’s employee were preventable had a combination of safe access, roof edge protection, staging and safety nets been used by trained personnel.”

HSE October 2021


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