East Durham firm fined over Hartlepool worker’s roof fall

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A RECYCLING firm and its boss have been fined for a string of failings after a worker broke a bone in his back after falling 12ft through a fragile barn roof.

The 25-year-old, from Hartlepool, was one of three labourers employed by Tees Valley Compost Cleaning Services to work at Murton Hall Farm,Hurworth Burn, near Wingate, on July 15, 2011.

They were instructed by company director Michael Andrew Thompson to clear debris from the roof of the barn that had gathered during compost cleaning activities.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday that the employee was working at the highest point of two softwood boards that had been placed onto the corrugated sheet cement roof.

The boards were necessary because cement sheets are well known for being fragile and many workers have fallenthrough such roofs.

At the end of the day’s work, the worker stepped off the boards onto the cement roof, which gave way and he fell through it.

He fell around 12ft and landed on an agricultural mower in the shed below, fracturing the bone at the base of his spine and was off work for two weeks.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the wooden boards being used were not fitted with any kind of edge protection and there were no other safety measures, such as safety netting or guard rails in use to prevent or lessen the impact of any fall from height.

The company, of Embleton Hall Farm, Hurworth Burn, Wingate, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,506.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Andrew Thompson, 47, also of Embleton Hall Farm, Hurworth Burn, Wingate, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was fined £2,000.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Sally Brecken said: “The worker is lucky to be alive because falls from such a height can often be fatal.

He did however suffer very serious injuries in this incident, which would not have happened if adequate safeguards had been in place.

“The company did very little to prevent falls from the roof or to reduce the risk of serious injury in the event of a fall.”

Latest figures show that around 18 people died as a result of a fall in a workplace in Great Britain annually and almost 4,000 suffered a major injury.

Buy Friday’s Hartlepool Mail for further details about this case.