A worker has been left paralysed after falling almost four metres through a fragile roof light in Lauder.
Neil Knox, from East Lothian, was apparently a time served and experienced worker, but had no formal training in roof work. At the time of the incident, he was working to replace plastic roof lights on a farm shed. He doesn’t remember how he came to fall, but was found by a colleague lying on the floor beneath a roof light that had a large hole in it.
Mr Knox was airlifted to hospital with broken ribs, a broken sternum and punctured lungs. His spine was fractured in two places, damaging his spinal cord, which has left him confined to a wheelchair with no movement or sensation in his legs. He also has only 50% lung efficiency due to partial paralysis of his chest muscles.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that his employer had identified that the roof surface was likely to be fragile but failed to carry out a site-specific risk assessment and subsequently failed to plan the work properly.
The company also failed to identify that the work to replace the roof lights could be done from a working platform beneath the roof, or by using safety nets or harnesses to keep workers safe.
It was fined £50,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Work At Height Regulations 2005.
Falling through fragile roofs and roof lights apparently accounts for almost a fifth of all the fatal incidents that result from falls from height, according to the HSE. On average, seven people are killed every year after falling through a fragile roof or roof light. Many others suffer permanent disabling injuries.
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