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Solar panel fitter breaks back on first day at work

22 Nov 13 A Welsh construction firm and its managing director have been fined a total of £20,000 for safety failings after a labourer fell four metres through a fragile barn roof, breaking his back on his first day at work for the company.

D&R Maintenance Solutions Ltd and John Dunmore were prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident which occurred while solar panels were being fitted to the roof of a barn at Claverdon, Warwickshire, on 24 February 2012.

The 36-year-old employee from Monmouth was carrying a solar panel when he fell through the fragile roof of the barn, landing on the concrete floor below. HSE found that little had been provided to protect workers from falls.

As well as fracturing two vertebrae in his lower back, requiring a brace to be worn for two months, he also broke a wrist. He returned to work after six months but no longer works in construction.

Leamington Spa Magistrates Court heard that the company and managing director John Dunmore were aware that the roof was fragile and told employees to be careful, but did not ensure that the job was properly planned or carried out safely.

Equipment provided for accessing and working on the fragile roof was not suitable, and four employees were working unsafely using single scaffold boards and crawl boards without guardrails or harnesses, and at times stepping on the roof itself. There were no fall prevention or fall protection measures in place.

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The injured man was one of two who had started work with D&R that day but neither had been given proper instruction or training for working at height.

D&R Maintenance Solutions Ltd of Cross Vane, Penalt, Monmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £3,357 costs.

John Dunmore, 54, of Cross Vane, Penalt, Monmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,357 costs.

HSE inspector Luke Messenger said after the hearing:  “D&R Maintenance Solutions Ltd, and Mr John Dunmore, its managing director, had received relevant previous verbal and written advice from HSE regarding work on fragile roofs but failed to take basic precautions to prevent falls.”

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