UK company fined and director sentenced after worker falls through fragile skylight
The hidden danger of unprotected skylights has again been highlighted after a UK worker fell approximately 3.3 metres through a perspex skylight. The worker sustained a broken shoulder, head injury, a partially collapsed lung and three broken ribs, spending three days in hospital. Additionally, he was forced to be off work for 18 months and the impact of the fall continues to affect his lifestyle.
The company was fined 30,000 pounds (over $52,000 AUD) and the owner jailed for six months for failing to ensure the safety of work at height.
It was reported that the skylight had become completely hidden over time due to a build up of dirt and the worker unwittingly stood on it without realising the danger. An inspection of the roof surface prior to the commencement of work had not taken place and it was revealed that the supervisor had no proper safety training which added to the litany of errors that had occurred on the site. (More information on the above incident can be found HERE.)
We would like to say this is an isolated instance but unfortunately many workers throughout the height safety industry are conducting work around unsatisfactorily protected skylights. Sadly, there have been many injuries and fatalities attributed to falls through skylights throughout the years. Watch this tragic story which brings home what can go wrong when working near inadequately protected skylights.
Skylights are not designed to support the weight of a person and they should always have guardrail protection, skylight protectors or safety wire mesh installed. Be aware however that simply having safety wire mesh installed may not be sufficient. Mesh can degrade over time and needs to be examined for its integrity, as does the structure to which it is attached. It is also vital to check the installation and its compliance to Australian Standard AS/NZS 4389. For more information on safety mesh requirements read our document "The Myths of Safety Wire Mesh".
Some check measures when conducting work at height:
1. Conduct a site inspection before commencing work
Prevention is better than cure. A thorough inspection of the roof area before beginning work can often highlight any problems that may require attention. If there are any areas of concern, alert site management immediately.
2. Complete a Safe Work Method Statement
Identify any hazards or risks associated with the work and ensure that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) has been completed detailing these risks and the safety measures that need to be implemented to reduce or eliminate the danger.
3. Worker training
Are the workers competent and trained in the work to be conducted? Make sure you check any relevant licences and paperwork before the work is undertaken. Ensure that all workers clearly understand the tasks they are being asked to perform and are aware of any risks and the safety measures in place.
Setting out a clear plan for the work to be carried out ensures that all processes and safety checks are performed as and when required.
When you have work being conducted at height, do not just "leave them to it". Carry out regular progress checks to ensure that the work is being conducted safely and in compliance with the site requirements, SWMS and any other specific regulations.