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Fines for three construction companies after director is blown off roof

22nd August 2019

Three companies have been fined by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for failing to suitably assess and determine a suitable system for work at height during a period of high winds.

All three companies were working on a school in the London borough of Hillingdon in February 2017, as Storm Doris wreaked havoc across the UK, bringing with it winds of up to 94mph. Warnings had been put in place on site, however work continued on the roof of the building.

scaffolding

On the day of the incident, at midday, a strong gust of wind blew the Director of one of the three companies in question off the roof, alongside free-standing A-frame barriers and stacks of insulation. The Director suffered severe injuries to his pelvis, vertebrae and tibia, injuries that have continued to impact his life.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was determined that all three construction companies had failed in their duty to ensure safe procedures were carried out for work at height during this period of extreme weather, taking an ‘informal’ approach to their assessments which were not compliant with industry standards.

All three companies, including the Principal Contractor, a roofing company and a fellow sub-contracted roofing company, plead guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) (organisation and planning) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The Principal Contractor in question was fined £350,000 and ordered to pay £6,190.28 in costs, the first roofing company was fined £29,300 and billed £6,187.88 in costs, and the second roofing company (whose Director was the victim in question) was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £6,159.48 in costs.

Following the conclusion of the hearing, HSE Inspector, Gabriella Dimitrov commented that: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to the workers in the safe system of working. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by [The Director] could have been prevented.”

This incident ultimately highlights the vital importance that assessments and inspections have when working at height. Working in windy conditions can pose a significant risk to those working on scaffolding, take a look at our Toolbox Talk on this topic, which covers risk assessment, storage of materials, scaffolding stability and much more.