Two companies have been fined £270,000 each after a site worker's spine was severed in a fall through a roof on a building site in London.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard this month (11 July) how, on 5 November 2015, Marcel Păduraru, a Romanian construction worker, fell on to and then through a fragile plastic skylight into a basement more than 3m below.
His spine was severed and he will not regain the use of his legs. He was 30 years old when he fell.
Grangewood Builders Ltd were the principal contractor carrying out a £5million refurbishment of a large house near Buckingham Palace on Chapel Road, London, when the incident occurred. Grangewood Builders had engaged Trenchco Ltd of to carry out specialised demolition work.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident found that, despite work being carried out directly alongside the skylight, neither company had checked to see if it was fragile. Neither had they taken any action to prevent people falling on to it.
Neither company had ensured the work was adequately planned. Workers had been put at risk from activities at the site ranging from demolishing a roof without edge protection to manually handling wood beams weighing an estimated 200kg.
The investigation also found that the Trenchco supervisor directly controlling the work had no formal training relating to supervision and some of the workers, including the Romanian who is left paralysed, had to rely on unofficial interpreters to pass on instructions and to tell them what health & safety records contained.
Grangewood Builders Ltd of Lionel Road, Canvey Island, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and was fined £270,000 with £7,025.98 costs.
Trenchco Ltd of Clewer Crescent, Harrow Weald, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and was also fined £270,000 with £7,025.98 costs.
HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented afterwards: “The risks relating to fragile skylights being fallen through and the simple solutions to avoid this are well known. The failings at the site were not limited to the unprotected plastic skylight. Other activities – such as the demolishing of a roof without edge protection – could also have resulted in a serious incident.
“While these companies may have wanted health & safety compliance, their failure to pay enough attention to their actual performance at the site resulted in a tragedy occurring. No-one should go to work and return unable to walk again”.