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Simple maintenance job led to neck- and back-breaking fall

29 Aug 12 A housing repair and maintenance company has been fined after a Nottingham worker suffered serious neck and back fractures falling 2.4 metres through a fragile roof.

The employee, 49, who has asked not to be named, needed to wear a body and neck brace for three months after falling head first through an outhouse roof in St Mary's Close, Gedling on 28 July 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution, told Nottingham magistrates yesterday (28 August) that the work, carried out by Morrison Facilities Service Ltd of Glasgow on behalf of Gedling Homes, had not been properly planned, supervised or carried out in a safe manner by trained staff.

The court heard that two workers were replacing cement sheets on a fragile, flat roof of a single storey outhouse. The employee accessed the roof via the top section of a triple ladder placed across it, with his colleague working from the bottom of the ladder which rested against a wall.

During the work, one of the sheets started to collapse but was left still hanging from the roof. The worker below was able to hang on to this section, while the employee tried to get off the roof. However, while going back down the ladder, he put his hand on the collapsed sheet and immediately fell straight through it, head first, landing on a concrete floor.

The man spent 10 days in hospital and had to wear a body and neck brace for three months every time he was mobile. He was in constant pain and had to be helped with washing and dressing during this time. He also needed to walk with a stick for several weeks after the incident.

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Morrison Facilities Service Ltd, of Tannochside Park, Uddingston, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,452

After the hearing HSE inspector Nic Rigby said: "Work at height carries significant risk and must be properly planned, particularly when it involves fragile roof surfaces.

"This incident has left a man with life-changing injuries yet it could have been avoided if a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had been carried out. This would have identified the need for this work to have been properly supervised and carried out by trained staff.

"The employee spent several months after the incident not knowing when he would be able to return to work or when life would return to normal."

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