Farm worker cracked ribs in fall through cowshed roof

A man has been fined for safety failings after a worker at an East Sussex Farm fell through a fragile cowshed roof.

Stuart Mitchell, 52, broke five vertebrae and cracked two ribs in the three metre fall to the ground. Following the incident, on September 15th last year, he still has limited mobility and has been unable to return to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had been called in to investigate whether events at Gate Court Farm, near Rye, could have been prevented. Their findings led to Rupert Cyster, a partner in the business, being prosecuted.

Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Mitchell had climbed on top of the building to repair a leaking internal gutter.

Once up there he noticed a crack on one of the sheets that also required attention. However, as he rested his foot on an adjacent panel to take a proper look, it snapped. Losing his balance, he fell forwards through the cracked roof and crashed onto the concrete floor below.

Mr Cyster was ultimately responsible for how the work was planned and managed, but on this occasion there was no agreed method. He knew the work was taking place but left the two workers to it, despite the fact neither had any formal training on how to work safely at height.

The defendant was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay a further £881 in costs after pleading guilty to three separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Russell Beckett said: “Stuart’s painful injuries could easily have been avoided had the roof repairs been better planned and managed.

“Falls through fragile roofs account for almost a quarter of all work at height deaths, so it is absolutely vital that any such work is fully considered and that the correct equipment and working methods are used at all times.”

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