Sonya French and solar panel supplier Southern Solar Ltd were also both fined for safety offences that led to the incident.
Brighton Crown Court heard how a farmer had contacted Southern Solar to fit 100 solar panels. The company subcontracted the fitting of the panels to a rope access company, Sky High Rope Access Ltd, run by Sonya French. During the installation, two operatives went onto the roof intending to run a rope along the ridge of the barn and attach it to a large tree, but the roof gave way. One of the operatives, 23-year-old David Mattison, fell eight metres through the roof. He spent six months in hospital and is now unable to walk.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the person put in charge of planning and supervising the work had never worked on a fragile roof before. The investigation also found the method statement prepared was inadequate as rope access is generally not suitable for use on fragile roofs.
Southern Solar Ltd, which previously traded at Phoenix House, North Street, Lewes, was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4 (1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company, now in administration, was fined £1.
Sonya French of East Wing, Thorpe St Andrews, Norwich, was found guilty of breaching Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. She was given a 20 month custodial sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay costs of £5,000.
HSE inspector Amanda Huff said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the David Mattison could have been prevented.”