Tragedy Highlights Danger

A tragic case serves as a reminder as to the terrible dangers often posed by working at height, reports Health and Safety risk assessment experts Safety-Link Consulting ( Cardboard box manufacturer Garthwest Ltd, contractor Cavill Property Maintenance Ltd and Cavill director Shaun Cavill have been prosecuted in relation to a death of a building maintenance worker who fell to his death through a rooflight.

Safety failings led to worker Kevin Jackson, a father of five, falling over 8 metres to his death through a fragile rooflight while cleaning gutters on the roof of the Garthwest factory in October 2009. It was found that no safety equipment was provided to Kevin or to any of his colleagues, as is required by Health and Safety legislation related to working from height. Following the tragedy, a full Health and Safety Audit was carried out which revealed that there was no edge protection on the roof, no crash decks installed to break a fall, nor any presence of boards for workers to stand on to avoid fragile surfaces when working from height.

The investigation also found that no Health and Safety risk assessment took place prior to the maintenance being carried out on the roof, an assessment which could have highlighted the gaps in vital Health and Safety measures and ultimately avoided the tragic death of Kevin Jackson. No training was given to Kevin or his co-workers as to the particular dangers of working from height even though the Health and Safety Executive is very clear about the need for additional training in this important field.

HSE Inspector Mark Walsh was clear about the roles of Garthwest Ltd, the property maintenance company and its director in this tragedy “All three parties in this case have contributed to the tragic loss of life of a loving husband, father and grandfather. It was an incident that was wholly preventable if obvious and sensible controls and safeguards had been put in place. Unsafe work at height on fragile roofs is a regular occurrence within many industries and is a major cause of death and serious injury. HSE will not hesitate to bring legal action against companies and individuals who fall so dangerously below accepted safety standards.”

Cavill Property Maintenance Ltd received a £65,000 fine, having pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3(1). Garthwest Ltd was fined £50,000 with £19,300 costs, after its admission of having breached Section 3(1) of the same Act. Shaun Cavill was found guilty of breaching the same Act on account of his negligence as an individual director and was fined £25,000.

One of the very tragic elements of this case is how easily the accident could have been avoided. Safety-Link Consulting provides full risk assessments which highlight any such safety failures well before tragedy can strike. Sadly, working from height continues to claim many lives when effective risk management can help avoid this. For further information go to the Safety-Link website at