Electrician’s labourer and athlete left with serious injuries after Dundee fall, court hears

Three Dundee companies have been fined a total of £336,000 after a worker fell 6.5m through a roof light onto a concrete floor.

Christopher Carson, who was 23 at the time, competed as a floor gymnast at national level and was also a coach in the sport. As his day job, he was working as an electrician’s labourer for Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners.

Crockett and Partners had been contracted by Electroguard Security Systems to fit a lighting system as part of a larger project at Dundee Cold Stores, Kingsway West, Dundee.

Dundee Sheriff’s Court heard that on 3 October 2008, Carson was attaching cables when he decided to use a mobile platform to get to the roof level and then walk across the roof to retrieve one of the cables.

Once on the roof he realised he needed some clips, and as he was returning to the platform he stood on a roof light and fell through it, hitting machinery in the building below, before landing on the concrete floor.

Carson required surgery and physiotherapy and is still recovering after suffering a number of fractures to his back as well as fractures and dislocation to his left shoulder. He also suffered a puncture wound to his lower back from a drill bit which was in his pocket when he fell.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dundee Cold Stores had not asked either Electroguard Security Systems or Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners for a written risk assessment for the work they had been asked to carry out. Nor was there a method statement from either company as to how the work was to be carried out safely.

Although Electroguard had carried out a site risk assessment for working at height, this was not specific to the job at Dundee Cold Stores. This risk assessment was known to its employees, but not to those of Crockett and Partners, who had been subcontracted by Electroguard to do the same type of work at height.

At Dundee Sheriff Court on Tuesday, Robert A.S. Crockett and Partners was fined £66,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Electroguard Security Systems was fined £135,000, and Dundee Cold Stores fined £135,000 after they both pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Harry Bottesch said:

“Mr Carson has suffered significant and lasting injuries because his employer left him to work at height unsupervised and without clear instructions about what work he was expected to do and how he was to do it. Nor was there any safe system of work in place to allow him to work safely at height.

“Where roof lights are present, it should be assumed that the area is fragile to walk on.”

In the last financial year, 13 people in Britain died and there were more than 760 serious injuries after work-related falls from height.

Guidance on working at height safely can be found at here.