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Milton Keynes roofing firm fined for ladder fall death

Milton Keynes roofing firm fined for ladder fall death

2 December 2013 Email this article

A roofing company from Milton Keynes has been fined for safety failings after a worker fell to his death from an unsuitable and badly maintained ladder.

Thomas Rowe, 56, from Crownhill, was undertaking roofline repairs at a two-storey property in Milton Keynes in January 2012 when he fell almost five metres to the ground below, sustaining a fatal head injury.

He was working for Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd, which was prosecuted after an HSE investigation revealed serious concerns with the equipment selected and used for the task.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard that Mr Rowe, a self-employed roofer who was sub-contracted to the firm on an ad-hoc basis, was working at the rear of the home in question to install weatherproof eaves protectors.

He accessed the roofline using a two-part extension ladder that was footed by the company director, who was also a close family friend. While the exact circumstances of how he came to fall are unclear, but he evidently slipped after failing to maintain a secure contact with the ladder and the building as he tried to work.

Thames Valley Police attended the scene before HSE was notified three days later. The subsequent investigation established that the choice of extension ladder was inappropriate, and that a more rigid system, such as a tower scaffold, should have been used instead.

Inspectors also found that the ladder had damaged rungs and missing footers, and as such should not have been in use at all. Had a better system been in place, and better equipment been used, Mr Rowe’s death could have very easily have been prevented, the court was told.

Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd was fined a total of £11,672 after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The judge ruled that the level of fine he imposed was indicative of the company’s limited means to pay, not the seriousness of the failings or the value of Mr Rowe’s life.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Berezansky said:“All work at height has to be properly planned and managed, and there were clear failings with the equipment used by Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd.

“Even short duration tasks need planning and foresight, and it is evident that had more appropriate equipment been provided then Mr Rowe’s tragic death could have been avoided.

“We were unable to find a direct link between the state of the ladder and his fall, but I also hope this case underlines the need to ensure that work equipment is properly maintained and fit for purpose.”