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Solar installation company fined after worker falls from height
Published:  08 March, 2013

A Dorset company specialising in the installation of solar panels has been fined for safety failings after a worker fell from a roof in Hampshire.

The Gendex employee, who does not wish to be named, stepped through a rooflight at the New Milton & District Community Centre, falling more than three metres before landing on a raised platform. This broke his fall and he managed to escape uninjured.

Gendex had been contracted to install 68 solar panels on the flat roof of the building over three days during February 2012.

Southampton Magistrates' Court heard on 7 March that the company had decided it was sufficient to merely warn employees about the potential fall risks rather than install any safety measures that may have damaged the roof fabric.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) established that a scissor lift had been provided for employees to access the roof, as were safety harnesses and training. However, the harnesses could only be used in the lift because there were no attachment points on the roof itself.

HSE also found that no protection had been provided for either the edge of the roof or the two rooflights that were present.

Gendex had previously been served with a Prohibition Notice by HSE in March 2006 relating to unsafe ladder work. The Swanage company was fined a total of £13,000 and ordered to pay £2,477 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said: "Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry.

"Thankfully the worker avoided injury on this occasion, but he was extremely fortunate to do so. The fall was entirely preventable and Gendex has no excuse for failing to do more than they did to mitigate the risks he and others faced. Roof work must be properly planned and appropriate safety equipment provided."

The latest HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12. Further information on safe working at height can be found online.