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Working at Height – Failing to Comply With the Rules Can Cost You Dear!

Working at height requires special training and protective measures. In a cautionary tale for employers who may be tempted to use unqualified staff to carry out roof repairs or other precarious tasks, a company that did just that was hit hard in the pocket after being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

Office RoofThe company had instructed three members of its maintenance team to ascend onto the fragile roof of its industrial premises in order to repair an extractor fan. During the operation, one of the men put his foot through the roof. Other employees below were showered with debris, including asbestos fibres.

The company was prosecuted on the basis that it had failed to take suitable and sufficient measures to protect the three men from the risk of falling. They had not been properly equipped for the task and had undergone no specific training in how to perform it safely. The company pleaded guilty to an offence under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £160,000.

In upholding the company’s challenge to the level of that financial penalty, the Court of Appeal noted that it was a long-established business that employed 240 people. Its previous health and safety record was exemplary. The company had experienced difficult trading since the EU referendum vote and the fine represented more than 20 per cent of its operating profit. In the circumstances, the penalty was halved to £80,000.