Three construction companies fined after worker suffers head injury following fragile roof fall

Three construction firms have been fined almost half a million pounds after a worker suffered a life-threatening head injury when he fell more than seven metres through an unguarded asbestos roof he was replacing.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard how Rafal Myslim was standing on the fragile roof at Dengie Crops Ltd in Asheldem, when the asbestos sheeting gave way and he fell 7.5 metres onto a concrete floor, hitting a number of pipes within the building on the way down.

There was no safety netting or other protective equipment to prevent him from falling and he suffered a hematoma on the brain.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found three companies - Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd of Ulting, Essex, Balsham (Buildings) Ltd of Balsham, Cambridge and Strong Clad Ltd of Castle Hedingham, Essex - were at fault for the fall.

The building owner, Dengie Crops Ltd, contracted Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd to help it replace the roof. Ernest Doe & Sons is a supplier of agricultural and construction machinery and not a building contractor. As it did not have the appropriate experience, it subcontracted the work to Balsham (Buildings) Ltd, which worked out how the roof replacement should take place. Balsham then subcontracted the actual replacement of the roof to Strong Clad Ltd.

According to the HSE, Ernest Doe & Sons was unable to act effectively in its role as principal contractor because it had no experience of working in construction.

It could not effectively oversee Balsham’s plans. None of the parties involved put in place safety measures for 40% of the roof that did not have netting below.

According to the HSE, they relied too heavily on the verbal briefings to workers reminding them of where the netting was rather than putting in place effective safety measures for the whole roof.

Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd, of Ulting, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £360,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Balsham (Buildings) Ltd, of Balsham, Cambridge, pleaded guilty to breaching 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulation 2005. It was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,000.

Strong Clad Ltd, of Castle Hedingham, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulation 2005. It was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000.

HSE inspector Adam Hills said: “The dangers of working on fragile roofs are well documented. Every year too many people are killed or seriously injured due to falls from height while carrying out this work.

“Work at height requires adequate planning, organisation and communication between all parties. This incident was entirely preventable and Mr Myslim is lucky to be alive.”

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