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£50,000 fine after roofworker paralysed in fall

Neil Knox, who was 69 at the time of the accident, was mending lights on a farm building when the accident occurred. He fractured his spine in two places, broke a number of ribs, punctured a lung, and now has to use a wheelchair because he has no movement in his legs. He has no memory of the accident.David Miller, the director for the East Lothian firm, said that employees were supposed to use crawling boards on the roof, but that Knox had walked on it despite specific instructions to the contrary. Knox had 45 years’ experience in roofing work, but the roof gave way, causing him to fall through to the gravel floor, 12 feet below. Barry Smith QC acknowledged the warnings given by Miller, saying: “It is not the first case and not the last case where a man of great experience takes a short cut and pays a high price for doing so.” However, a subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the safest way to fix the lights would have been to use a platform within the building. There had only been a cursory risk assessment that had been “general and not site-specific”. HSE inspector Ritchie McCrae stated, “This was an entirely avoidable incident… David Miller Contracts Ltd should have been aware of the risks and the precautions that needed to be taken before starting the work. The dangers of fragile roofs are well known and consideration should have been given to using a platform underneath the rooflights or installing safety should have been given to using a platform underneath the rooflights or installing safety nets.”Due to these factors, the court imposed a significant fine on the company. Since David Miller Contracts has since gone into liquidation, this will not be collectable. Mr Knox was also undertaking a separate civil suit at the time of the judgment.
Diane Parker, partner and head of personal injury at Atherton Godfrey, said: “The company’s liquidation means that the fine will probably never be paid, but Mr Knox should still recover compensation for his injuries as all employers are required to have employer’s liability insurance.
“Compensation will never replace what Mr Knox has lost but should help with adaptations to his home and care for the rest of his life.”
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