The circumstances were:
- An employee of Paragon International Ltd., a vending machine supplier, was sent onto the roof to clean the guttering between two connected buildings.
- No provisions were made to do the work safely, such as hiring a cherry-picker
- He was told he should try to stay away from the roof lights, but no practical steps were taken by the company to avoid this.
- The employee and another worker had to carry bags of debris to the top of the roof, walking on the metal sheets between the roof lights, so that it could be collected by a forklift truck.
- One of the men accidentally stepped onto a roof light and fell 6m into the accounts office below. He suffered bruising to his right side and leg, and injuries to his right hand and back.
The HSE Inspector said:
"The worker was extremely lucky not to have been seriously injured or even killed when he fell through the roof light. If he had fallen further along the roof then he would have landed on the concrete warehouse floor. Paragon International knew the roof lights were fragile but he was simply told to try to avoid them, rather than any action being taken to keep him safe. The company should have carried out a proper assessment of the risks and then controlled them so that the work could be out safely. They could have used a cherry-picker, harnesses or safety netting, but none of these were chosen. An employee’s life was put at risk as a result."
SSS comment: This is a clear example of a failure to anticipate risks due to non-core operations. A company may have safe operations for its main business but fail to cope with something out of their normal expertise. A simple permit to work system, which prompts a check of risks and how to control them is necessary for non-core operations.