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Roofer killed in ladder fall

22 Nov 13 A roofing company has been fined for safety failings after a worker fell to his death from an unsuitable and badly maintained ladder at a Milton Keynes home.

Thomas Rowe, 56, from Crownhill, was undertaking roofline repairs at the two-storey property on 14 January 2012 when he fell almost five metres to the ground below, sustaining a fatal head injury.

He was working for Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd, which was prosecuted this week by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation revealed concerns with the equipment used for the task.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard that Mr Rowe, a self-employed roofer who was subcontracted to the firm on an ad-hoc basis, was working at the rear of a home on Hodder Lane to install weatherproof eave protectors.

He used a two-part extension ladder that was footed by the company director, who was also a friend.

It is not clear exactly how or why he fell, but he evidently slipped after failing to maintain a secure contact with the ladder and the building as he tried to work.

Thames Valley Police attended the scene before HSE was notified three days later. HSE’s investigation established that the choice of extension ladder was inappropriate and that a more rigid system, such as a tower scaffold, should have been used instead.

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Inspectors also found that the ladder had damaged rungs and missing footers, and so should not have been used at all.

Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd, of Laurel Close, Milton Keynes, was fined £11,672 after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The judge ruled that the level of fine was an indication of the company’s limited means to pay, not the seriousness of the failings or the value of Mr Rowe’s life. No prosecution costs were awarded.

After the hearing, HSE inspector John Berezansky said: “All work at height has to be properly planned and managed, and there were clear failings with the equipment used by Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd.

“Even short duration tasks need planning and foresight, and it is evident that had more appropriate equipment been provided then Mr Rowe’s tragic death could have been avoided.

“We were unable to find a direct link between the state of the ladder and his fall, but I also hope this case underlines the need to ensure that work equipment is properly maintained and fit for purpose.”

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