Firm fined after worker falls eleven feet through roof

A Walsall maintenance firm has been fined after an employee was seriously injured when he fell 11 feet through a fragile roof during poorly-managed roof work in Nottingham. Stephen Bassford, 58, from Nottingham, fractured his pelvis, wrenched his shoulder and sustained severe gashes to his face and left elbow in the incident on 4 July 2012. He required extensive physiotherapy and stitches and was unable to work for four months. Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd were prosecuted last week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into the fall identified safety failings. Nottingham Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Bassford was working alone for the company at the former Shepherd Special School, on Harvey Road. He was boarding over broken rooflights on the main building as well as a fragile roof canopy that covered part of the playground. Heavy rain caused Mr Bassford to stop work and as he was collecting his tools, he slipped and fell through the fragile perspex roof canopy and plunged to the concrete floor below. HSE found that Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment or properly plan or supervise the work. The firm had highlighted the need for a scaffold and harness system in its quotation for the work, but neither was put in place. Magistrates were told that had simple measures been in place to prevent or mitigate a fall, such as scaffolding or a harness; or steps taken to prevent Mr Bassford working near, or on a fragile surface, then the incident could have been avoided. Mr Bassford had worked for the company for 18 years, but had never received any training or instructions for working safely at height. Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd, of Green Lane, Walsall, was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay £9,732 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Frances Bailey said: "Mr Bassford sustained serious injuries and could have died as a result of the fall. He had been working alone at the derelict school, so it was fortunate that he was able to call the emergency services himself after the incident occurred. "The dangers of working at height and near fragile materials are well known, yet incidents of this kind occur all too often. This fall could have easily been prevented if Data Contracts Specialist Maintenance Ltd had properly assessed the risks and put simple measures in place to minimise them. The implementation of an appropriate plan would also have ensured that anyone undertaking the work was properly supervised and protected. "This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all companies of their legal duties to manage safety and provide the protection required to safeguard workers from falls." Poor standards and unsafe work on building sites in the East and West Midlands are being targeted this month. Local HSE inspectors will be part of a national team making more than 2,000 unannounced visits to construction sites across the country. They will be checking to ensure high-risk activities, such as working at height are being properly managed. Next, and this beggars belief, existing handrails, intended to prevent falls from the mezzanine, were removed!?!

Builder pays price for unsafe work

The owner of a Leeds building firm has appeared in court after two workers were injured, one seriously, when they fell from a mezzanine floor they were dismantling. One worker, then 61 and from Seacroft, broke two vertebrae and was in hospital for five days following the incident on 15 July 2012. He has been unable to continue working in the construction industry because of impaired lifting and carrying abilities. The second man, then 18 and from Halton, suffered concussion, but has since made a full recovery. The mezzanine, in a Cross Green warehouse that was being vacated, was being purchased by George Simms, a partner in Simco Services, who brought in the two men to dismantle it. Leeds Magistrates heard (18 Sept) that Mr Simms gave inadequate thought to planning the work, and existing handrails, intended to prevent falls from the mezzanine, were removed. As the work went on, it is thought one of the boards broke and the two men fell to the concrete floor below. The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted George Simms for a breach of the Work at Height Regulations. HSE told the court that Mr Simms had not considered how the work should be undertaken and this led to the two men working at height with no safeguards in place to prevent them falling. The men were repeatedly required to work close to the open edges, often while carrying materials and tools, making a fall more likely. The investigation was unable to identify exactly how the two workers fell together but a probability was that a board broke, causing it to slip. However, HSE said it was the ad-hoc nature of the work which ultimately led to the serious risks faced by the men. George Simms, of Ramshead Drive, Seacroft, Leeds, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,210 in costs after admitting a breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. After the hearing, Inspector Martin Hutton said: "The two men who fell from height could easily have been killed. While one has been lucky enough to make a good recovery, the other suffered lasting spinal injuries which meant he had to give up work. "As far as Mr Simms goes, his only method of work was an unsafe, poorly-planned one, presenting abundant risks to workers of falling off or through the mezzanine. "Work at height is the single biggest cause of fatal incidents in the workplace and proper planning is vital to ensure it can be carried out safely. That includes choosing the most suitable equipment and making sure work is properly supervised." For information and advice about safe working at height, visit