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Solar panel installer fined after worker fall

Dorset solar panel installation firm Gendex Limited has been fined £13,000 by the Health and Safety Executive after one of its workers fell from a roof in Hampshire.

The employee, who does not wish to be named, fell more than three metres after stepping through a rooflight at the New Milton and District Community Centre in New Milton.

The incident occurred on 17 February 2012. The worker landed on a raised platform which broke his fall and he managed to escape uninjured.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard on 7 March that Gendex was installing 68 solar panels on the flat roof of the building over three days.

An investigation by the HSEestablished that a scissor lift had been provided for employees to access the roof, as were safety harnesses and training. But the harnesses could only be used in the lift because there were no attachment points on the roof itself.

The HSE also found that no protection had been provided for either the edge of the roof or the two rooflights that were present.

Magistrates were told the company had decided it was sufficient to merely warn employees about the potential fall risks rather than install any safety measures that may have damaged the roof fabric. Scaffolding was also ruled out as a very last resort.

The court also heard that Gendex, which also does cavity wall insulation, was served with a Prohibition Notice by HSE in March 2006 relating to unsafe ladder work. The HSE said the firm was therefore “fully aware of the need to carefully control and manage all work at height”.

Gendex Limited, of Bridge House, Court Road, Swanage, was fined a total of £13,000 and ordered to pay £2,477 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said after the hearing:

“Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry.

“Thankfully the worker avoided injury on this occasion, but he was extremely fortunate to do so.

“The fall was entirely preventable and Gendex Ltd has no excuse for failing to do more than they did to mitigate the risks he and others faced.”

The latest HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12.

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