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Young worker broke back in six-metre fall through roof light

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A solar panel installation firm and its technical director have been forced to pay out a total of £71,000 after a 20-year-old worker broke his back when he fell six metres through a fragile roof light.


The young worker, from Woolston near Warrington, who does not wish be named, has not been able to work since he fell while installing solar panels on the roof of a barn in Northamptonshire for employer Alternative Energy Installations Ltd.

Northampton Crown Court heard that he has suffered constant pain and depression since the incident at Norton Grounds, Daventry, on 28 November 2011. Soft floor material in the barn, used for horse training, helped to break his fall, but he was still hospitalised for four weeks with a serious back injury.

According to HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove, technical director Ian Black knew the perspex roof lights were fragile, but failed to implement any measures to prevent falls.

He even laughed when one worker asked him whether they would be wearing harnesses for the work.

HSE served the company with a prohibition notice during the subsequent inspection for failing to use adequate fall protection, at which point Alternative Energy Installations began to use crawling boards and safety netting to continue the job.

Ian Black of Denbigh in Wales was fined £7,300 and ordered to pay £6,700 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at an earlier magistrates’ court appearance.

Alternative Energy Installations Ltd, which has gone into liquidation since the incident, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £27,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching section 2(1) of HSWA.

“This fall could have been fatal and was entirely and easily preventable,” Peter Snelgrove said. “As it is, the incident has dramatically affected a young man, starting out in life, and he has not worked again since. He has been affected personally, emotionally and physically and has had to change his whole way of life – and will more than likely need to retrain and his loss of self-confidence has had a drastic effect on his social life.

 “The fact that they were able to overcome the problem so simply afterwards, by using crawling boards and safety netting, shows how easy it was to prevent the incident.

“Alternative Energy Installations Limited should have ensured that the work at height was properly planned and that workers had the right protective equipment and had been trained in its use.”

In 2012/13, 6,300 employees suffered major injuries after falling from height at work.  Working on roofs account for almost a quarter of all workers who are killed in falls from heights, and falls through fragile materials like sky lights account for more of these deaths than any other single cause. 

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