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Client fined £20k for contractor's roof fall

4 Oct 12 A construction client has been fined £20,000 for the unsafe working methods of its contractor that left a man paralysed from a roof fall.

Paul Blanchard was contracted by farm owner Loates Bros Ltd to replace damaged roof panels and skylights on barns at Northorpe Grange and Southorpe Farm in Blyton, Lincolnshire.

He carried out the work at Northorpe Grange without any problems, but the following day, 18 July 2010, he fell more than four metres through a fragile skylight at Southorpe Farm shortly after climbing onto the barn roof.

Mr Blanchard, 56, of Gainsborough, broke his back, 18 ribs and suffered severe head injuries and a punctured lung. He was in an induced coma for three months and in hospital for six months. He now needs a wheelchair after being left paralysed from the chest down.

A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Loates Bros Ltd had failed to assess Mr Blanchard's suitability for the job and allowed work to be carried out in an unsafe manner.

Work was allowed to go ahead without the contractor providing a risk assessment or method statement. There was no safe means of roof access and no protective measures were in place to prevent or mitigate the effects of a fall at either location.

Lincoln Magistrates' Court was told yesterday (3 October) that the work at Northorpe Grange was assisted by one of the company directors lifting the panels up to the roof on a telescopic handler. Mr Blanchard and another man then slid them down and into place.

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At Southorpe Farm, Mr Blanchard accessed the roof by using a staircase and climbing through a window in an adjacent building. The director again helped him lift equipment using the same telescopic handler before leaving Mr Blanchard to get on with the work.

Loates Bros Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,995.

After the hearing HSE inspector Martin Giles said: "Maintenance of the farm buildings was a necessary part of the company's undertaking. As such Loates Bros Ltd had a duty to ensure that contractors like Mr Blanchard were not exposed to unnecessary risks to their safety.

"One of the company directors worked with Mr Blanchard for some of the time and was in a position to see how he was working. He was also able to note that there was a complete lack of safety equipment in use.

"The director was therefore in a position to question and stop the work if he felt it was unsafe. In failing to ensure that the contractor was competent, that there were adequate arrangements for planning and organising the work and by allowing Mr Blanchard and the other man to work on barn roofs in an unsafe manner, Loates Bros Ltd breached its duty to them at both sites."

Since the incident, Mr Blanchard, who has had to move to a specially adapted bungalow and has spoken at a number of health and safety conferences about the impact it has had on his life. "I feel frustrated that I can't work anymore, do all the manly jobs around the house, or play squash like I used to, but I realise I'm lucky to be here. The way I see it, the glass is half full," he said. "I hope that telling people what I've been through will make them think about how important health and safety in the workplace is, and they can avoid something like this happening to them."

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