*UPDATE* Roof fall prompted conservatory co to invent novel barrier
Thursday 15th September 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Manchester-based Phil Coppell specialises in conservatory roof installations. On 29 June 2015 two employees were repairing a tiled conservatory roof at a property in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside. The job required them to take off the tiles, peel back a waterproof membrane and replace a piece of plywood that was sagging.
One of the men decided to climb off the roof and access the two bottom rows of tiles from a stepladder below. He was not using a roof ladder and walked across to a corner of the conservatory to get down. He slipped, his foot became caught in the gutter and he fell headfirst on to the stone patio 2.5 m below.
He sustained a bleed on the brain from a fractured skull and a shattered eye socket. He was in hospital for five days and off work for almost four months. He has returned to Phil Coppell but now works in the company's factory.
"For work on sloping roofs we'd expect to see the use of a cat ladder or a properly constructed roof ladder," said Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Christine McGlynn. "We would not consider the nature of this work to be short duration work and we'd also expect to see some edge protection, such as the use of a tower scaffold that would have acted as a form of fall protection if the workers had slipped back."
During its investigation, the HSE found that the victim had had a previous fall while working for the company. In December 2013 he had been working alone when he slipped off a roof and was knocked unconscious. Phil Coppell recorded the accident but did not report it to the HSE under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). In August that same year another fitter broke six ribs when he fell through a conservatory roof light. This incident also went unreported.
The HSE served Phil Coppell with an improvement notice, which it complied with within three months.
The company was fined £40,280 plus £1,465 costs at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court. It pleaded guilty at Bolton Magistrates Court on 4 July to breaching reg 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations, for failing to prevent workers being injured by falls, and reg 3(1) of RIDDOR 1995 and reg 4(1) of RIDDOR 2013, for failing to report an injury as a result of an accident.
The judge assessed Phil Coppell's culpability as medium and put the offence in Harm Category 2.
In mitigation, the company said that the director whose responsibility it was to handle accidents and investigations had since been dismissed.
"Throughout the investigation the company had suggested that reasonable practicable measures weren't available and that tower scaffolds wouldn't be applicable at their sites because of the nature of the build of the conservatories," McGlynn told IOSH Magazine. "That wasn't a particularly strong argument on their part because it does appear that there are competitors who do take measures successfully and don't have this accident rate."
In the end Phil Coppell designed its own fall prevention barrier for use on conservatory roofs and has applied for a patent, McGlynn said. Made of PVC, the edge protection attaches to a steel frame that is secured to the conservatory ring beam.
The company also retrained all its fitters and introduced a new risk assessment document for remedial work.
Montway was responsible for the demolition of a two-storey detached house in Golders Green, London. Labourers Ioan Vancia from Romania and Albert Sejdijaj from Kosovo had been instructed in English to tear down the roof and clear away the demolition debris. Vancia had a limited command of the language, while Sejdijaj spoke reasonable English, but did not speak Romanian.
Two employees of Phil Coppell were repairing a conservatory roof at a property in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, in June last year when one lost his footing. The 59-year-old fell 2.5 m onto the patio below and sustained a bleed on the brain from a fractured skull, and a shattered eye socked. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said measures were not in place to prevent workers falling from height. It served Phil Coppell with an improvement notice, after which the company implemented a barrier for use as edge protection.
Colin Marshall, the founder of Colin Marshall Scaffolding, and his son and business partner, James, have been prosecuted for the death of employee Roger Stoddern. The worker fell 7 m from the flat roof of a property in St Mawes, Cornwall, while he was dismantling scaffolding on 24 June 2013. Stoddern had been stacking 3 m roofing sheets and the safety railing had been removed so he could access the roof to carry out the task. Truro Crown Court heard that one of the men replaced the rail afterwards to mislead the Health and Safety Executive.
Father of seven Lance Davies, 46, was working on the roof of an industrial premises in Caerphilly, south Wales on 15 December 2011. He fell more than 7 m through the roof light and died. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the work at height control measures at the Crumlin site were inadequate.
A member of the public complained to Walltopia, which is based in Letnitsa, Bulgaria, that its employees were working on a pallet balanced on a telehandler’s forks during construction of a high ropes adventure course at Markeaton Park, Derby. The company promised to stop the unsafe practices, but failed to do so. The member of the public reported the issue to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found employees working on a section of open-edged roof 11 m off the ground. The workers climbed on to the roof from the basket of a cherry picker.
David Thomas was using the walkway to access an oil tanker on 5 March 2012 when it suddenly gave way. He fell 3.5 m over the side and his legs became tangled in loose cables. He sustained fractures to both legs and a dislocated knee. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told Swansea Crown Court that Valero had not carried out a sufficient risk assessment for the use of the access tower, with the result that the dangers of slack cables were not identified.