A London contractor and director of a Hertfordshire roofing company have been fined following the serious injury of a worker after he fell 6 metres through a void that was awaiting a roof light.

On 29th February 2012 the self-employed roofer fell, fracturing and breaking several bones in his back, as well as sustaining other injuries resulting in him being unable to work for 14 months and ongoing hospital visits and treatment.

Westminster Magistrate Court heard that the roofer picked up a piece of ply board he thought was debris and didn’t realise it concealed the void. He then fell through the roof, feet first and landed on the first floor 5.6metres below.

The court was told the fall was entirely preventable and that any number of workers on the site that day could have suffered a similar outcome. Right Angle Ltd was fined for failing to properly plan, manage and monitor the construction phase whilst John Donald was fined after admitting a breach of the CDM regulations.

Fundamentally, this tragedy was caused by a lack of planning however there are a number of safety products that could have been used to dramatically improve the safety of the workspace. These include Safety Harnesses which scaffolders and roofers wear when working, along with lanyards and/or rope to secure themselves to fixed points.

Many roofers could also find themselves in safer situations by using devices such as the Ridgegear Roof Anchor, an anchoring point that is screwed in place on a purlin (or other such anchoring spots) so the roofer can safety anchor themselves whilst working at height.

On this occasion the roofer was lucky to have survived the fall however he’s been left with the long lasting impact of what happened to him. Working at height is a dangerous activity and OBAS has long advocated making harnesses and anchoring points mandatory.