Demolition work could have been carried out safely by excavator already on site… A 67-year-old man has been left paralysed after falling from the roof of a pub in Sunderland while carrying out demolition work.
The owner of the demolition firm has been prosecuted after a HSE investigation revealed safety failings. The demolition workers had been using a mobile platform to access the roof of the building which also served as a protective barrier to prevent the workers from falling from the edge of the roof – however the platform did not cover the whole length of the roof and didn’t provide the necessary safety protection for working at heights.
The accident victim fell a distance of around 18-20 feet to the ground and sustained serious injuries including multiple fractures to three vertebrae, his elbow and his leg. He also suffered a collapsed right lung and dislocated his right hip as a result of the fall. He now requires around the clock care in a nursing home as his limbs are paralysed due to the damage to his vertebrae.
Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard that working at heights for the purposes of this demolition job was not even necessary as the work could have been carried out using a 360 degree mechanical excavator that was already on site.
The HSE investigation also revealed that the instruction and supervision of the employees carrying out this high-risk work was either severely lacking or completely non-existent.
The owner of the demolition firm was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,434 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 6(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
HSE Inspector Keith Partington commented after the hearing:
“The building could have been safely demolished by remote mechanical means using the excavator that was on the site – without the risks to the public, which the defendant claimed was the reason for manually dismantling the roof.
“In choosing to undertake the work at height the system the defendant used was not sufficiently robust enough to prevent one of his employees falling from the roof level to the ground which resulted in injuries that have left this worker in a condition whereby he now needs permanent care to assist him in his daily living.
“Falls from height are one of the largest causes of death and serious injury in the construction industry the consequences of which affect not only the victims, but their families and the community and thus work at height should be planned for carefully, with suitable and sufficient instruction and supervision when executed.”
The HSE report that falls from height are the most common direct cause of workplace deaths. In 2010/11 there were 20 fatalities and 3,957 serious injuries as a result of falls from height in the UK which is the equivalent of almost 2 deaths a month and more than 10 serious injuries a day.