School caretaker disabled in fall days before retirement

A caretaker has been left with life-changing injuries after he fell four metres through a roof at a school in Bradford five days before his retirement.

David O’Hanlon, 62, had worked at Beckfoot School in Bingley for eight years but decided to take early retirement when the site was closed and replaced by a new facility. He agreed to stay on to supervise the clearance of the old building and to ensure all classrooms were empty.??On 22 June last year, he was putting a new light bulb in a roof void of the old building so he could empty it safely before demolition. He stepped on to an un-boarded area of the ceiling, which gave way beneath him, and he fell four metres to the hall below.

He suffered a fractured hip and a broken heel. He required three screws to be inserted in his hip and is likely to need a hip replacement and further surgery on his heel to add plates and screws. Doctors have advised him that he will suffer from severe arthritis and will not regain full mobility.

The HSE investigated the incident and found Bradford Council, which owned the school, had failed to assess the risks inside the building during the clearing operation. Visiting Inspector said: “Bradford Council has a duty to fully assess the risks in a building and ensure its employees are safe as they go about their day-to-day duties. That may mean providing necessary information or training when necessary – in this case, relating to working at heights and risk assessment.

“Given that the main purpose was to clear out rubbish before demolition, the sensible decision would have been to leave well alone in the roof void and let the demolition go ahead regardless.”

Bradford Council appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court on 17 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £5667 in costs.

After the hearing, an inspector added: “This incident was completely avoidable and has essentially dashed Mr O’Hanlon’s hopes and expectations for a healthy retirement.”