Firms in court after worker's life-threatening roof fall

Published:  11 August, 2014

Two firms have been sentenced for safety failings after Peter Tracey, a Liverpool worker, suffered life-threatening injuries when he fell through the roof of a former Cheshire factory.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Haydock-based Local Asbestos Services and Leicestershire-based Construction Contracting UK following an investigation that found they had allowed workers onto the roof without safety measures in place.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court was told that Mr Tracey was part of a group of labourers hired by Local Asbestos Services to remove the asbestos sheets; Construction Contracting was overseeing the project as the principal contractor. Both companies had agreed that the sheets would be removed using a cherry picker or scissor lift underneath the roof, which would have allowed workers to cut the bolts holding the sheets in place without needing to go onto the roof itself.

Despite this, two of the men – including Mr Tracey – were allowed to climb onto the roof to remove the panels from above with no safety equipment having been provided. On 5 April 2013, Mr Tracey was removing an asbestos sheet when it started to slip away, and when trying to retrieve it he stepped onto a clear plastic panel, which gave way. His fall resulted in critical injuries, including two collapsed lungs, blood in his left lung, fractures to his ribs and hip, and a ruptured shoulder tendon.

Construction Contracting UK was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,502 after being found guilty of a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 by failing to monitor the roof work to make sure it was safe.

Meanwhile, Local Asbestos Services was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £6,191 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to ensure the roof work was carried out safely. Both companies were sentenced on 8 August 2014.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Jones said: “Sadly, this kind of incident is all too common in the roofing industry, and Mr Tracey has suffered debilitating injuries because of the failings of both Local Asbestos Services and Construction Contracting.

“Many industrial buildings have clear plastic panels on them designed to act as roof lights, but they are fragile and can collapse if workers stand on them. Both companies had prepared a risk assessment and method statement identifying a safe system of work, but this wasn’t implemented.

“Instead, Peter and another worker were allowed onto the roof instead of using a cherry picker underneath, which put both their lives in danger. This case should act as a warning to firms of the consequences of not following agreed safety systems.”