Council prosecuted and fined after worker falls through roof

by Redmans Solicitors on July 17, 2013

A local authority has been fined by a Sheriff Court after a worker was seriously injured in a fall from height in May 2011.

Mr Douglas McGregor, 52, was working for The Moray Council as a labourer when the incident occurred on 27 May 2011. Mr McGregor was working on the removal and replacing of a roof light at a Council depot in Keith when the accident happened. He was standing on scaffolding batons after reaching the roof by using a ladder but one of the scaffolding batons slipped, causing Mr McGregor to slip and fall almost ten feet head-first to the ground below. This involved Mr McGregor also falling through the roof light that he was supposed to be repairing. As a result, he suffered significant injuries to his head and severe damage to the right side of his body, including a broken pelvis, a broken collar bone and fractured ribs. He was in a wheelchair for eight weeks after the accident but has subsequently returned to work (in November 2011).

The Health and Safety Executive was notified of the accident and subsequently started an investigation. This investigation resulted in a recommendation that a prosecution be undertaken against The Moray Council for failing to comply with health and safety legislation, namely a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The matter came before the Elgin Sheriff Court on 11 July 2013. The Sheriff Court heard evidence that the garage roof light that Mr McGregor had been standing on was unstable and that it was unlikely to hold the weight of a person, as well as submissions that the working practices were unsafe and that  sufficient safeguards hadn’t been put in place to prevent injuries to the workers.

The Moray Council pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and fined the Council £4,000. It does not appear that the Council was ordered to pay costs.

Neither the Moray Council nor their criminal defence solicitors appeared to have commented after the prosecution.

HSE Principal Inspctor Mr John Blackburn commented after the prosecution: “Incidents on roofs of this type are commonplace, especially falls through roof lights, which are considered to be fragile, being unable to support the weight of persons walking on them… [The Council’s breaches] led to a worker suffering severe injuries and others being put at risk in an incident that could have been easily avoided had safety measures been in place”.

Marc Hadrill, a personal injury solicitor at Redmans, commented: “Employers aren’t expected to take any possible step to comply with health and safety laws – simply those steps that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances. The court clearly felt in this circumstance that the Council hadn’t taken the necessary adequate steps”.

Redmans Solicitors offer employment law advice and settlement agreement advice

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