A Gwent-based property development company and its director have been fined for putting the lives of workers at serious risk through unsafe roof work.
Formaction Ltd was installing a new roof on a unit at The Gulf Works, Penarth Road, Cardiff in June 2013, when a member of the public spotted the dangers and informed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of their concerns.
An immediate inspection by HSE found three people working on a fragile pitched roof between five and eight metres above ground, without any measures in place to stop people falling through the roof, or off its edges onto the concrete below.
Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn were prosecuted at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court today (4 April) for a series of breaches over work at height regulations.
The court was told HSE served a Prohibition Notice, stopping work at the site until the correct safety measures had been put in place and an asbestos survey conducted.
HSE found there was nothing in place at the site to cushion anyone who did fall, such as safety nets, specialist airbags or beanbags, and nobody was wearing a harness or fall arrest system.
In addition, safe access to and from the roof had not been provided and the workers were seen walking over the sloping fragile roof and climbing over the top of the safety rails on a cherry picker.
HSE said suitable staging boards to spread the load over a fragile surface should have been in place, and guard rails set up around the open edges.
The court was also told that Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn, who was one of the workers on site, had been caught by HSE undertaking dangerous work at height on four occasions between them since 2007. The company buys, refurbishes and rents out industrial units across South Wales.
Formaction Ltd of Glandwr Industrial Estate, Aberbeeg, Gwent, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(3) and 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,323. Derek Bawn, of Newbridge, Gwent, pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulations through Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined a total of 6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,323.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Liam Osborne said:
“Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn knew perfectly well that what they were doing was seriously unsafe and illegal, because of previous enforcement action by HSE and a warning of prosecution if they continued to work in this way. The workers were deliberately exposed to serious danger because of the serious neglect of safety precautions.
“Carrying out roof work, especially on a fragile surface without anything to stop people falling through, or off, a roof is very dangerous and is an extreme risk to take.
“The dangers of working at height are well known in the roofing industry yet poor safety standards and lack of safeguards still exist among some contractors. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to anyone undertaking roof work, including senior managers and directors, to plan and carry out this work professionally, and safely.”
District Judge Bodfan Jenkins said:
“This is a serious case, even though there was no injury. This was a death waiting to happen and was a very serious dereliction of duty.”
Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/falls
Notes to Editors
1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
2. Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
3. Regulation 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that “Where it is not reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without passing across or near, or working on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall (a) ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar means of support or protection are provided and used so that any foreseeable loading is supported by such supports or borne by such protection (b) where a risk of a person at work falling remains despite the measures taken under the preceding provisions of this regulation, take suitable and sufficient measures to minimise the distances and consequences of his fall.
4. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.