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Firm prosecuted following the avoidable death of a roof worker

28 July 2015

A Darwen firm have appeared in court after one of their employees died after falling from the roof of a partly completed loft conversion project in January 2012.

Newhey Loft Conversions Limited were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation revealed that the scaffolding used to protect workers from a fall while carrying out roof work was not sufficient.

Minshull Street Crown Court heard that Newhey had been contracted to carry out a large loft conversion on a property in Chorlton, Manchester and their subcontracted employee, Graham Readfern, (56 yrs old from Bacup), had fallen from the roof of the dormer conversion but was not caught by the scaffolding as it had not been built high enough to stop someone falling to the ground some 5 metres below.

Mr Readfern had been carrying a roll of roofing felt onto the newly built dormer window when the ladder he was using collapsed and he was catapulted over the scaffold handrail into a neighbouring garden. Although treatment was given, Mr Readfern died of his injuries 17 days later.

Newhey Loft Conversions Limited pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Newhey Loft Conversions Ltd, of Lloyd Street Sawmills, Darwen, was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said: "This was a large loft conversion job which required the company to increase the height of the original roof to fit dormer windows, although the scaffolding was adequate for the start of the works, once the new and much higher dormer windows were built by Newhey, they should have increased the height of the scaffolding.

"This simple lack of attention to the progress of the works led to Mr Readfern working outside of the safety provided by the original scaffold and sadly suffering a fall which resulted in his death.

"It is clear that had Newhey simply raised the scaffold height, at a cost of only a few hundred pounds, Mr Readfern would never have suffered a fall of this scale and would more than likely still be with his family and friends to this day. This simple lack of thought has cost a man his life and a family their father, husband, granddad and friend.

"Falls from height are a major cause of serious and fatal injuries in the construction industry so it’s vital firms take the risks seriously. Proper planning is key to ensuring these well-known risks are well managed."