Shetland based G & A Leask Limited pled guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 at Lerwick Sheriff Court on 19 April 2023. The company was fined £9,000.
The prosecutor told the court that on the afternoon of 30 October 2018 Thomas Marshall, then aged 22 years, and a co-worker were sent to repair roof tiles on a property in Seafield, Lerwick.
The sloped roof of the house was just over four metres high. The ground below was a narrow passageway between the gable end and the perimeter wall.
At about 4.15pm Thomas’ co-worker went to collect more tiles while he continued to replace damaged slates.
Approximately 10 minutes later a passer-by heard a shout and saw Thomas falling sideways off the unprotected edge of the roof.
Paramedics were at the scene shortly afterwards and, suspecting brain damage, they stabilised him before taking him to the Gilbert Bain Hospital.
Thomas Marshall suffered a severe traumatic brain injury along with vertebrae fractures and a broken collar bone because of the fall. He continues to suffer ongoing effects due to the head injury. He recently settled a civil action in relation to the incident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company had well trained and well-equipped employees but in this instance the company had failed in their duty to clarify with their employees that using scaffolding was a direction rather than a suggestion.
HSE stated that work on sloping roofs is not low risk work and the risk of falling from an unprotected roof edge is such that a scaffold or other roof edge protection would be a reasonably practicable precaution in the circumstances.
Since this incident the company has stated that work is now more closely supervised, and it has altered ‘Job Sheets’ to include specific risks and instructions which employees must acknowledge as being understood.
Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the COPFS, said:
"It is well known that falls from height are one of the single greatest causes of death and serious injury to workers within the construction industry.
"This accident could have been avoided if G & A Leask Limited had put in place the appropriate planning, supervision and protective measures.
“This incident could easily have proved fatal and has irrevocably changed Thomas Marshall’s life.
“Hopefully this prosecution will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have severe and potentially tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings."