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Contractors in court over worker's roof plunge

19 February 2014

A Cardiff building contractor has been fined for breaking safety legislation after a young worker broke his back in a seven-metre fall through an unprotected hole in a roof.

Daniel Thorley, 25, from Llantrisant, was working on the roof of a new three-storey home in Dinas Powys when he fell. He suffered spinal injuries, needed significant rehabilitation and was unable to work for more than a year.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted his employer, Blackflair Ltd, at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on the 18th February.

The court was told Mr Thorley had been building a block wall on the timber-framed house when it started to rain and a colleague asked him to lend a hand to waterproof the flat roof. A window was in the process of being fitted to the roof at the time.

As he was laying-out and fixing the polythene to the roof Mr Thorley took a step backwards and fell down the hole to the ground floor, landing on a concrete slab. HSE found there was nothing over the hole where the window was to be fitted to protect workers from falls and no safety measures underneath to mitigate falls. The work had not been properly planned by Blackflair Ltd and insufficient measures had been put in place to reduce the risk of workers falling through the roof. Blackflair Ltd, of Four Elms Road, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £1,137 in costs. In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Bodfan Jenkins, said: "This was an accident waiting to happen and in the circumstances caused serious injuries. The lack of a risk assessment and supervision were the underlying causes”

HSE Inspector Liam Osborne, speaking after the hearing, said: "Mr Thorley was badly injured and has suffered severe pain for a prolonged time, but he could have been killed. "The risks could have been much reduced if measures such as guardrails had been installed around the hole or a temporary crash deck structure placed underneath. Airbags or beanbags commonly used in the construction industry could have been placed to cushion any fall.” "Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and the risks are well known in the construction industry. It is crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures are put in place to protect staff from the dangers involved.”

Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk/falls