NEWS: Edge protection that snapped on worker of ‘no known standard’

A solar panel company and scaffolder have been fined after an agency worker suffered serious injuries when a roof’s edge protection gave way.

Investigating HSE inspector Jayne Towey, speaking after the case was sentenced on 6 June at Leeds Magistrates Court, told Safety Management how Mr Jhanade Ryan had only been on Centreco (UK) Ltd’s site for two days when he fell five metres at Firth Steels in Brighouse.

Towey told how Centreco, a company which designs, finances and installs solar panels, had contacted Oswestry Shropshire Scaffold (OSS) to provide scaffolding and edge protection at the steel works building.

When this was completed, work began to install solar panels on 10 December, and Mr Ryan arrived for work on 15 December.

“He was provided with a site induction,” said Towey. “However, it had been raining that day so he was sent home as the roof was deemed too slippery.

Snapped toe board in-situ where Mr Ryan fell 5m at roof of Firth Steels, Brighouse. Photograph: HSE

Mr Ryan went back on 17 December. “Initially, he was fetching and carrying solar panels around the roof, then he was shown how to tighten up the bolts to fix them firmly in place.”

The next day, Mr Ryan was lying down on the roof, tightening up the bolts on a row of newly fitted solar panels when he began to slide down the roof.

“When his feet came in contact with the edge protection that was in place to prevent falls, the protection snapped and gave way resulting in Jhanade falling approximately 5 metres onto the substation flat roof below,” said Towey.

The worker sustained a fracture to his spine, a broken coccyx and nerve damage, and, after being hospitalized for three months he is still unable to work due to ongoing mobility issues.

HSE found Centreco had not followed the Construction, Design and Management regulations 2015, to plan, manage and monitor the construction phase to ensure construction work is carried out without risk to a person’s health or safety.

In other safety breaches, it was found there had been fragile, uncovered roof lights on the roof and that Centreco had not taken any positive action to prevent a person falling through them.

OSS’s failings were that it had sent scaffolders to erect the edge protection who were not properly trained. One trainee was working unsupervised on the installation of the system. The handover certificate was produced and signed off by a scaffolder who was a trainee at the time

The edge protection was also not suitable or sufficient because it was not erected to a known standard or design, which resulted in it failing when it was struck by Jhanade as he slipped down the roof.

District Judge agreed with HSE that seriousness of the harm risked was Level A as there was a risk of death and that both firms fell short of the appropriate standard in a manner which falls into the category of high culpability.

The firms were ‘micro’ companies. The starting point for the level of fines was £54,000 with a range of between £30k - £100k.

In the case of Centreco UK Ltd – the judge used £50k as a starting point. They were offered full credit for early guilty plea and cooperation with HSE. (discount of 33% applied) resulting in a fine of £33,500 plus HSE costs of £945.20 and  £120 victim surcharge.

In the case of OSS the judge used £40k as a starting point. They were awarded a 28% discount for early guilty plea.They were not awarded any discount for cooperation as they had not fully aided HSE’s investigation. The final result was a fine of £28,800 plus HSE costs £945.20 and £120 victim surcharge.

The fines were reached after the judge heard in mitigation how Centreco UK ltd now carry out detailed checks and risk assessments on all jobs they are undertaking, Towey said.

“They have employed a health and safety consultant and now operate permit to work systems for work at height and they carry out proactive audits and inspections on contractors working for them.

“They request copies of scaffold designs and carry out checks on those persons who erect scaffolding for them.”

Oswestry Shropshire Scaffold Ltd of Pool Cottage, Oswestry, Shropshire was fined £28,800 plus costs of £945.20 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Centreco (UK) Ltd of Hearle House, Chorley, Lancs pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £33,500 and ordered to pay £945.20 in costs.

“HSE investigated the matter and concluded that both Centreco (UK) Ltd and Oswestry Shropshire Scaffold Ltd fell significantly short of the standards required to ensure the safety of persons not in their employment, namely Mr Jhanade Ryan, whilst at work,” concluded inspector Towey.