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Lack of safety measures led to roof fall

19 Sep 13 A Walsall maintenance firm has been ordered to pay more than £20,000 after an employee was seriously injured when he fell through a fragile roof 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 was prosecuted yesterday (18 September) by the Health & 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.

When heavy rain stopped work, Mr Bassford gathered up his tools but slipped and fell through the fragile perspex roof canopy, landing on a concrete floor 11ft below.

HSE found that Data Contracts had 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.

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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.

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.”

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