Perthshire Advertiser

Company fined after joiner fell from roof

- COURT REPORTER

A family-run joinery business has been fined £3400 after a long-serving employee plunged more than 13 feet from the roof of a house being built in Crieff almost three years ago.

Joiner David McLeish, who was 51 at the time, fell through a gap of almost two feet between scaffoldin­g and the three-bedroom property.

He suffered serious injuries, including nine fractured ribs and a collapsed right lung, as well as fractures to four vertebrae and his shoulder.

He spent six days in Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital and was off work for 12 weeks.

His employer, Stephen Gardiner Constructi­on Ltd of The Feus in Auchterard­er, admitted breaching health and safety at work regulation­s at East Lochlane, Crieff, between November 20, 2017, and January 24, 2018.

Perth Sheriff Court was told that site manager Stephen Gardiner, also a director of the firm, wasn’t competent to carry out the mandatory sevenday safety checks on the scaffoldin­g required under the legislatio­n.

The scaffoldin­g, erected by another company, had been completed satisfacto­rily, with “hop-ups” [scaffold board platforms] installed to ensure there were no gaps through which a person might fall.

However, it emerged that the hopups, along with inner mid rails and guard rails, were “missing”.

Depute fiscal Nicola Gillespie told the court : “It is unknown who removed the hop-ups - or when they were removed.”

Mr McLeish, who had worked with the company for 24 years at that time, had gone out on the roof , along with an apprentice, to repair a leak at a dormer window shortly before 4pm on January 24, 2018.

They had each nailed a strap of wood onto the roof to hold down a length of polythene.

But Mr McLeish went back onto the roof after noticing a piece of polythene flapping in the wind.

Ms Gillespie said: “He turned around on the roof, expecting the wooden baton to hold his weight, stepping back onto the scaffold.

“The wooden baton gave way, causing Mr McLeish to fall from the roof.”

The gap he fell through measured 600mm wide by 1200mm long.

The apprentice heard a “loud thud” as the experience­d joiner hit the ground.

He was initially unconsciou­s but came round and was taken by ambulance to Ninewells.

The fiscal added: “The site manager [Mr Gardiner] had not been provided with the training to enable him to complete the scaffold inspection­s he had been tasked to do.”

He later completed the two-day inspection training course on March 8 and 9, 2018.

Solicitor Tim Lennox, for the company, said they accepted the inspection regime was “deficient”.

He continued: “The company has no previous conviction­s for any contravent­ions of health and safety legislatio­n and has an otherwise good safety record over its 18 years of trading in constructi­on.”

Mr McLeish was paid in full during his five-month absence and fullsettle­ment of his civil claim was reached shortly after he returned to work.

He also continues to work with them. The company’s turnover in 2019 was £2,461,557, a decrease of around £700,000 on the previous year, and the net profit was £12,500.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm expected a “far lower level of turnover and resultant profit” in its year end 2020 accounts.

Imposing the fine, Sheriff Lindsay Foulis said there were “no aggravatin­g factors” in relation to the accident and Mr McLeish, thankfully, appeared to have recovered from his serious injuries.

But he added: “Regulation­s are there for a purpose – and that cannot be ignored.

“One has to take care that any financial penalty imposed, whilst reflecting the serious nature of the offence, nonetheles­s isn’t so punitive that, in actual fact, it can result in any of the company’s employees losing their position or, even worse, the company not being able to continue.”

The £3400 penalty will be recoverabl­e by civil diligence.

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