Real-life H&S incidents

Worker's broken back brings fines for company and director

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
9th June 2017
roof worker

Eco NRG Solutions Ltd and its director Jon Luke Antoniou have been fined after a worker fell from height while fitting solar panels at a farm in Cornwall.

Taunton Magistrates Court heard that Lewis Harding, 28, was working on a fragile roof at Venn Farm on 19 May 2015. He fell more than three metres through a fragile skylight and broke his back in three places. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to take adequate precautions to prevent workers falling from height. No edge protection, under-roof netting or boarding had been provided. The company instead relied on an ineffective use of harnesses. Unsafe working had been taking place for months before the accident and the Court heard that it continued for months afterwards. 

After pleading guilty to breaching Section 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Section 33 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Eco NRG Solutions Ltd of Polden Business Centre, Bristol Road, Bridgewater was fined £115,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2879.60. 

The investigation also found that the failure was attributable to the neglect of company director Jon Antoniou. He pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 and was fined £5000 plus costs of £1957.40. 

HSE inspector Sue Adsett said: “The worker is lucky to have not sustained more life threatening injuries from what we found to be a serious breach of the law. This case highlights the importance of directors being vigilant and acting on their obligations.”

Phoenix comments: 

This incident could have been avoided with effective risk management. In 2016, 26% of all fatalities in the workplace were caused by falls from height. The HSE guidance document INDG284 'Working on Roofs' provides clear advice on planning, controlling, supervising and carrying out work safely on fragile roofs. The Working at Heights Regulations stipulate the hierarchy of control via three simple steps:

  • Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
  • Where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
  • Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall where the risk cannot be eliminated by using the right type of equipment.

Collective passive systems such as safety nets are preferred because individual measures such as harnesses cannot prevent a fall, only minimise the consequences. Harnesses are also subject to failure if individuals do not wear or anchor them correctly.

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