Narrow escape for teenage worker in four metre fall

A 16-year-old apprentice had a lucky escape from serious injury after falling four metres through a fragile rooflight at a farm in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, a court has heard.

The teenage worker, from Masham, suffered bad bruising to his back but no broken bones after his fall through the rooflight on a barn where solar panels were being installed by electrical contractor Austin Gregg, of Masham. It was only his third day at work.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Mr Gregg, trading as Gregg Electrical, at Northallerton Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates were told Mr Gregg had two apprentices working with him that day. When the incident happened, he was on the roof of another shed planning the fitting work. The 16-year-old was on the ground tidying up when he was asked by the other apprentice if he would fetch a tool.

Without thinking to put a harness on, the youngster went on to the roof, stumbled and trod on a partially-covered rooflight which gave way, sending him crashing through to land on the concrete floor below.
HSE’s investigation found that Austin Gregg had taken some precautions but they were either insufficient or incomplete. Fragile rooflights were partially covered and harnesses had been provided with lanyards but fixing points were not adequate or tested.

Austin Gregg, of Westholme Crescent, Masham, North Yorkshire, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £505 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing an HSE Inspector said:
“This young man certainly had a close shave. Falling from height remains one of the biggest causes of death and major injury.

“It is crucial that employers put safety precautions in place for working at height, whether the job lasts ten minutes or ten days. The risks of working on fragile roofs are well recognised and there is no excuse for putting workers at unnecessary risk of serious injury, or even death.

“It is particularly important to ensure that vulnerable young people, new to the working environment, are given very close supervision, clear instructions and not exposed to risks that they may not be able to envisage.”