Three Dundee companies have been fined a total of £336,000 after a worker fell six and a half metres through a roof light onto a concrete floor.
Christopher Carson, who was 23 at the time, competed as a floor gymnast at national level and was also a coach in the sport. As his day job, he was working as an electrician’s labourer for Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd.
Crockett and Partners had been contracted by Electroguard Security Systems to fit a lighting system as part of a larger project at Dundee Cold Stores Ltd, Kingsway West, Dundee.
Dundee Sheriff’s Court heard that on 3 October 2008, Mr Carson was attaching cables to the wall of the building in order to install the new security system. One of the cables he needed was on the roof of the building so he decided to use a mobile platform to get to the roof level and then walk across the roof to retrieve it. Once on the roof he realised he needed some clips, and as he was returning to the platform he stood on a roof light and fell through it, hitting machinery in the building below, before landing on the concrete floor.
He suffered a number of fractures to his back as well as fractures and dislocation to his left shoulder. He also suffered a puncture wound to his lower back from a drill bit which was in his pocket when he fell.
Mr Carson required surgery to reattach three tendons to his shoulder and had to undergo physiotherapy. He still suffers from chronic pain in his back and shoulder from which he is making a slow recovery.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dundee Cold Stores Ltd had not asked either Electroguard Security Systems or Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd for a written risk assessment for the work they had been asked to carry out. Nor was there a method statement from either company as to how the work was to be carried out safely.
Although Electroguard had carried out a site risk assessment for working at height, this was not specific to the job at Dundee Cold Stores. This risk assessment was known to its employees, but not to those of Crockett and Partners, who had been subcontracted by Electroguard to do the same type of work at height. The fact that employees would be working at height ought to have been the focus of safety planning, however no safe system of work was implemented to ensure any risks identified were eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.
The investigation also revealed that Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd had not given Mr Carson any training or information that would have helped him identify that the roof could be fragile. Additionally, Dundee Cold Stores Ltd did not carry out any safety inductions before contractors started work on the site, nor were there any safety meetings once the work had started to ensure that it was progressing safely.
At Dundee Sheriff Court, Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners Ltd of Scott Street, Dundee was fined £66,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Electroguard Security Systems of Strathmore Avenue, Dundee was fined £135,000, and Dundee Cold Stores of Whittle Place, Gourdie industrial Estate, Dundee fined £135,000 after they both pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After sentencing, HSE Inspector Harry Bottesch said:
“Mr Carson has suffered significant and lasting injuries because his employer left him to work at height unsupervised and without clear instructions about what work he was expected to do and how he was to do it. Nor was there any safe system of work in place to allow him to work safely at height.
“Where roof lights are present, it should be assumed that the area is fragile to walk on. If these three companies had thought about the obvious risks involved, and planned the work properly then Mr Carson’s injuries – and the impact they have had on his life ever since – could have been avoided.”
In 2010/11, 13 people in Britain died – More than 760 serious injuries after work-related falls from height.
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