The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a Lincolnshire farming business after a building contractor fell through a barn roof resulting in life-changing injuries.

On 18 July 2010 builder Paul Blanchard was contracted by Loates Bros Limited to replace damaged roof panels and skylights on barns at the Northorpe Grange and Southorpe Farm in Blyton.

Mr Blanchard accessed the barn roof at Southorpe Farm by using a staircase and climbing through a window in an adjacent building. A company director assisted Mr Blanchard by lifting the panels up to the roof using a telescopic handler, Mr Blanchard or another worker were then to fit the panels into position.

Mr Blanchard fell through a fragile skylight shortly after climbing onto the roof and, with no safety measures in place to prevent or minimise the effects of a fall, he fell more than four metres to the solid ground below.

Broken back, fractured ribs and head injury

Mr Blanchard broke his back, fractured 18 ribs, punctured his lung and sustained a head injury. He was in an induced coma for three months and spent a total of six months in hospital. Mr Blanchard has been left paralysed from the waist down and now uses a wheelchair.

The HSE told Lincoln Magistrates’ Court that Loates Bros Limited had allowed the roof repairs to be undertaken in an unsafe manner and without ensuring that a risk assessment or method statement had been undertaken by the contractor. Mr Blanchard’s suitability for the job had also not been assessed.

Loates Bros Limited pleaded guilty to two breaches of section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, they were fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,995.

Life-changing injuries could have been avoided

HSE inspector Martin Giles, said: “Maintenance of the farm buildings was a necessary part of the company's undertaking. As such Loates Bros Limited had a duty to ensure that contractors like Mr Blanchard were not exposed to unnecessary risks to their safety.

“One of the company directors worked with Mr Blanchard for some of the time and was in a position to see how he was working. He was also able to note that there was a complete lack of safety equipment in use.

“The director was therefore in a position to question and stop the work if he felt it was unsafe. In failing to ensure that the contractor was competent; that there were adequate arrangements for planning and organising the work and by allowing Mr Blanchard and the other man to work on barn roofs in an unsafe manner Loates Bros Limited breached its duty to them at both sites.”

Peter Magee, a solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “Mr Blanchard sustained life-changing injuries as a result of an accident which could have been avoided if the company had followed health and safety regulations. Falls from height account for the majority of fatal and serious accidents at work and any thinking employer should do all they can to prevent or mitigate the effects of a fall.”