A solar panel company has been fined £153,000 after a worker suffered serious injuries after falling through a skylight at a private residence in Kent.
On 30 April 2013, a three man team of workers were carrying out work on the roof of an outbuilding which housed a swimming pool. The workers, employed by P V Solar UK Limited, were replacing faulty solar panels that had originally been fitted by the same company in 2011.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that one of the workers was walking across the roof whilst carrying a solar panel. He then fell through a roof light, fracturing his shin and vertebra as his body hit the side and flooring around the pool below. The worker was unable to return to work for approximately nine months and when he did return, he was unable to carry on working on a full time basis.
An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that P V Solar UK Limited should and could have done more in order to prevent the fall.
HSE recognised that safety harnesses, as well as a scaffold tower and ladder had been provided for the work at height. However, none of the three men carrying out the work had received formal training or instruction on how to use the equipment, meaning that it was useless. HSE also found that further safety measures could have been implemented but weren’t, such as providing hard covers for the roof lights and full scaffolding.
Regarding the initial installation of solar panels at the property in Kent in 2011, HSE found that the safety equipment provided on this occasion was also inadequate and placed the workers at risk. The court heard that HSE had also, in the same year, provided P V Solar with a Prohibition Notice to ‘stop unsafe work on a fragile roof’ in Bristol in May.
HSE established that the firm was fully aware of the need to ensure sufficient measures were in place to avoid falls during work at height.
Sentencing & Fines
After pleading guilty to three separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, P V Solar UK Limited, of Cambuslang Road, Glasgow, was fined a total of £153,000 and ordered to pay a further £29,480 in costs.
Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said:
“The injured worker suffered serious injury in the fall and could have been killed. He and his colleagues were effectively left to their own devices with equipment that was not wholly suited for the task at hand. In short, better equipment, training and supervision should have been provided.
“Working on or near a fragile roof or materials is not a task to be undertaken without proper planning, and without having the appropriate safety measures in place at all times. There is considerable free guidance available from the HSE regarding the precautions needed when working at height, including on or near fragile roof coverings.”
Accident at Work – Expert Advice
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Source: Health & Safety Executive