Solar PV firm fined for skylight fall

Published:  31 May, 2013

A Midlands firm specialising in the installation of solar panels has been fined for safety failings after a worker sustained life-threatening injuries when he fell through a skylight at a warehouse in Blundell Street, Islington.

Brian Dolan, 58, from Warwick, fractured his skull in two places, broke five vertebrae and three ribs, and suffered hearing impairment in the incident on 1 March 2012. He was hospitalised for more than a fortnight and was unable to work for seven months.

This week, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that self-employed labourer Dolan was working for Rugby-based Grenergy Solar to help install 342 solar panels on the roofs of two warehouse buildings. His fall occurred on the second day of the work when he plunged almost five metres to the concrete floor below. A pallet of flour in the warehouse partly broke his fall, but not enough to prevent serious injury.

Precisely how he fell is unclear, but a subsequent investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) identified that irrespective of what happened there were no measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall, such as safety netting beneath the skylights.

Magistrates were told that had the work been properly assessed, with appropriate safety measures taken, then the incident could have been avoided.

Grenergy Solar was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £9,041 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Hems said: “You would expect a company that specialises in roof installations to be fully aware of the risks posed by working at height on, with, or near fragile surfaces, and to take the appropriate safety precautions.

“Yet that clearly didn’t happen here, and Mr Dolan could easily have paid with his life as a result. The District Judge commented, in relation to the system of work proposed but never actually implemented by the company, that it was a ‘defective process and implementation of it was defective’.

“Mr Dolan suffered terrible injury in a wholly preventable yet depressingly frequent incident, and it is imperative that effective measures are put in place at all times to prevent or mitigate falls.”

Further information on working safely at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls.