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Company Fined for Fall through Roof Accident at Sainsburys

March 5, 2015

Magistrates in Westminster have fined a Derbyshire company for safety failings which resulted in a fall through roof accident at Sainsburys in Wandsworth.

On 8th August 2013, James Whelan (31) from Wimbledon in Surrey was working for a scaffolding subcontractor on a project to extend the Sainsburys supermarket in Wandsworth, West London. As he walked along an area linking the roof space of the existing store with the new extension, he stepped on a section of plasterboard which he assumed was covering the secure walkway.

Unfortunately the fragile material snapped under his weight, and James fell seven metres through a suspended ceiling – landing on a stairway. James was rushed to hospital, where he underwent treatment for a fractured spine, fractured pelvis, four broken ribs and a bruised lung.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the fall through roof accident at Sainsburys and discovered that more could have been done to mitigate the chances of a fall – such as providing stronger covers over or beneath fragile materials and properly securing the integrity of the walkway with guard rails.

Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd – the subcontractor for whom James was working – was prosecuted by the HSE for a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which led to the fall through roof accident at Sainsburys. The Derbyshire-based company pleaded guilty to the charge, but said that they had tried to mitigate the risk of an accident by restricting access to the walkway.

Magistrates fined the company £6,000 and order it to pay a further £1,428 in costs, after which HSE Inspector Gavin Pugh said: “The hazards presented by fragile surfaces and open edges are clear, and it is common knowledge that falls from height account for almost half of all deaths and serious injuries on construction sites. As such, companies like Bowmer & Kirkland should be fully aware of what needs to be done to adequately protect workers”.

“The safety standards surrounding the walkway and fragile area fell some way short on this occasion, and it could have cost the scaffolder his life. He suffered painful injuries that still cause him pain and discomfort, but he could just as easily have been killed.”

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