London fit-out firm fined £8,000 for height safety breaches

A London fit-out contractor has been fined for height safety failings after a worker broke his back falling through a roof light at a construction site in Kensington.

The 46-year-old worker broke three vertebrae, his right shoulder blade and several ribs in the fall at a property undergoing redevelopment in Rutland Gate, Kensington, on 3 February 2011. He is unlikely to be able to return to manual work.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that he was carrying out insulation work on a flat roof for Shoreditch-based Sherlock Interiors Contracting Ltd. He fell through one of the roof lights and six metres to the ground below.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that hardboard coverings previously installed over the roof lights had been removed and replaced with thin plastic sheeting. Safety decking beneath the roof – designed to protect workers in the event of a fall – was no longer in place when the man started work.

The fall could have been prevented had the risks been properly assessed, and had the work been better planned and managed.

Sherlock Interiors Contracting Ltd, of Vestry Street, London, N1, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £5,347 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Collingwood said: “Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry. It is therefore essential that effective management arrangements are in place to ensure risks are managed and workers are protected. Fragile roof covers provide little or no protection, and should be viewed with the same level of danger as an open void.”

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