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Worker paralysed after roof fall

Worker paralysed after roof fall

2 July 2013 Email this article

A site supervisor has been fined after a colleague was left paralysed following a ten metre fall from the roof of a Tyneside Warehouse.

Phillip Giles, who was a temporary employee, fell from an unprotected and fragile roof after the site's supervisor, Paul Burke, ignored his own company's safety policy and allowed workers to go onto the roof in order to remove cement sheets when gaining access from below using a scissor lift was proving too difficult. Mr Giles trod on a loose skylight panel, that gave way under his weight. He fell around 10 metres to the ground below.

Mr Giles, who was aged just 26, suffered multiple injuries and has been left paralysed from the neck down as a result of the fall.

The court was told Mr Burke's employer, which had a contract to remove asbestos cement roofs from a number of warehouses at the site, had identified them as fragile. The company had agreed a system of work where its employees used scissor lifts, removing the roof sheets from the underside.

When Mr Burke encountered difficulties working in this way, he did not bring this to the attention of the contracts manager, as required by the company procedure. Instead, he allowed a change to the system of work and allowed workers to go directly onto the roof.

The HSE found the company's agreed system was safe but by changing it, Mr Burke had sanctioned an unsafe system of work. The company was unaware of the changed way of working and Mr Burke had failed to consult with them.

Paul Burke, 56, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching Regulation 4(1)(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 between 4 August and 5 September 2011 by failing to properly supervise work at height and make sure it was carried out safely. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £9,765.88 costs.

Speaking after the case Mr Giles said: "I welcome the fact that the HSE has taken this action and I hope that this means what happened to me won't happen to anyone else."

HSE Inspector Keith Partington added: "This incident has had a devastating and life-changing impact on Mr Giles and his family.

"Mr Burke allowed some of the work to be undertaken on the roof without any measures in place to guard against falls and injury. He was not authorised to make changes of this nature and also failed to discuss the changes with his employer.

"Those who supervise work at height have a responsibility to ensure that it is carried out in a manner which is safe and which guards against the risk of injury from a fall. Such injuries, if not fatal, may result in a lifelong disability for the injured person."