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School Admits Liability for Employee Fall from Roof Accident

The Brentwood School in Essex has been fined £40,000 by Chelmsford Crown Court after admitting liability for an employee fall from roof accident.

In February 2015, sixty-three year old Keith Chandler was one of a team of maintenance engineers that were restoring the Grade II listed Newnum House at the Brentwood School in Essex. On February 17th, Keith used a ladder to climb onto the roof of the bay window he was helping to repair, when he lost his footing and fell 2.6 metres to the ground.

As a result of the employee fall from roof accident, Keith damaged five vertebrae, bruised a kidney and suffered a hairline fracture to his shoulder. Although he was back at work six weeks later, Keith is still unable to lift heavy loads, climb ladders or work at height. His injuries have also affected the enjoyment he gets from playing with his grandchildren.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the employee fall from roof accident an found that there had been a failure to conduct a risk assessment before the job was started, a failure to install guardrails or other protection to prevent employees falling from the roof, and that there was no supervision of the maintenance engineers.

The school´s trust – the Brentwood School Charitable Incorporated Organisation – was prosecuted for breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 despite having a robust health and safety policy. The HSE´s inspectors said that, although policies existed, they had not been enforced during the restoration of Newnum House.

At this week´s hearing of the Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge Charles Gratwicke heard former maintenance manager – Anthony Bridger – admit it was difficult to enforce the school´s policies during the restoration work because the team of maintenance engineers were “old school and just wanted to get on with the job in the easiest way”.

Representatives of the school´s trust acknowledged that the work was not closely supervised and admitted liability for the employee fall from roof accident. Commenting that the outcome could have much graver if Keith had fallen onto his head, Judge Gratwicke fined the school £40,000 and ordered it pay £1,477 costs.