Six metre fall lands Orkney firm in court

An Orkney-based construction firm has been fined for safety failings after a worker was seriously injured when he fell six metres through a roof sheet.

William [known as Wilbert] Paterson, then 58, and from the island was one of three workers employed by Daniel Harcus Construction repairing a fragile roof at a farm in Tuquoy, Westray, when the incident occurred on 16 April 2012.

Kirkwall Sheriff Court was told today (23 April) that Mr Paterson and his colleagues were lifted on to the roof by a telehandler and had then stepped onto the fragile roof to begin work without any crawl ladders or other safety measures in place.

He had successfully replaced a couple of broken fibre cement sheets and was moving over the ridge from one pitch of the roof to the other when he stepped on a sheet which fractured under his weight.  He fell through the sheet on to the concrete floor some six metres below.

Mr Paterson, who had worked for 24 years for the company, broke his left arm and suffered multiple fractures and vascular damage to his left foot along with pelvic bruising. He continues to suffer pain in his left foot and arm and has not recovered sufficiently to return to labouring work.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Daniel Harcus Construction had failed to come up with a safe alternative system of work once it became apparent that existing crawling boards could not be used because of the curved ridge of the roof.

HSE found the firm had failed to properly plan and appropriately supervise work being carried out at height, and to ensure that the work was carried out in a safe manner.

Daniel Harcus Construction, of Old School, Rapness, Orkney, was fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.    Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Niall Miller, said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. Falls from height remain one of the most common reasons for injuries and even fatalities at work, and it is fortunate that Mr Paterson survived such a fall, albeit with serious injuries.

“Daniel Harcus Construction should have carried out a risk assessment before work started. The dangers of fragile roofs are well-known in the industry and consideration should have been given to alternative approaches, for example replacing the boards from underneath.”

Falling through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights accounts for almost a fifth of all the fatal accidents which result from a fall from height in the construction industry. On average seven people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light. Many others suffer permanent disabling injury.

For more information about working at height log onto the HSE website at:

Notes to Editors:

1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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.

2. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation

3. Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned; appropriately supervised; and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.”

4. HSE news releases are available at

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