health and safety ladderAn employee at a vending machine supplier in Skelmersdale was lucky to escape with minor injuries after he fell through a fragile roof, a court has heard.

The 40-year-old from Runcorn, who has asked not to be named, had been clearing out the gutters at Paragon International Ltd, on Paddock Road, on 4 September last year when he fell approximately six metres through a roof light.

The company, which trades as Eurocup and supplies snacks and drinks for vending machines across the UK was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had failed to ensure he could work safely on the roof.

Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court heard the employee had been sent onto the roof to clean the guttering between two connected buildings. He was told he should try to stay away from the roof lights, but no practical steps were taken by the company to avoid this.

The employee and another worker had to carry bags of debris to the top of the roof, walking on the metal sheets between the roof lights, so that it could be collected by a forklift truck.

One of the men accidentally stepped onto a roof light and fell into the accounts office below. He suffered bruising to his right side and leg, and injuries to his right hand and back.

The court was told the company should have found alternative ways of doing the work safely, such as hiring a cherry-picker or providing edging around the roof lights.

Paragon International Ltd, of Paddock Road in West Pimbo, pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined a total of £10,500 and ordered to pay £3,067 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Bradley Wigglesworth said:

“The worker was extremely lucky not to have been seriously injured or even killed when he fell through the roof light. If he had fallen further along the roof then he would have landed on the concrete warehouse floor.

“Paragon International knew the roof lights were fragile but he was simply told to try to avoid them, rather than any action being taken to keep him safe. The company should have carried out a proper assessment of the risks and then controlled them so that the work could be out safely.

“They could have used a cherry-picker, harnesses or safety netting, but none of these were chosen. An employee’s life was put at risk as a result.”