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HSE wants rooflight ban to cut danger to workers

NEWS - Call comes after construction boss pleads guilty to manslaughter of employee who died after fall

INSPECTORS at the Health and Safety Executive are calling for fragile rooflights to be banned in all new buildings because they pose an immediate danger to construction workers.

Officials believe a ban could improve the industry's safety record - in which falls from height are the single biggest killer.

The call came after Lee Harper became the first ever construction boss to personally plead guilty to the manslaughter of an employee, Daryl Arnold,27, at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday.

Previously only one construction company, English Brothers, and never an individual, has pleaded guilty to such a manslaughter charge.

Mr Arnold plunged 6 m to his death through a fragile rooflight on June 11, 2003, at a construction site at Lyntown Trading Estate, Eccles, in Greater Manchester. He was employed to remove and replace the building's roof.

Mr Harper also pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act in that he failed to ensure the safety and welfare of an employee. He also pleaded guilty to the same charge on behalf of his company, Staffordshirebased Harper Building Contractors.Mr Harper will be sentenced on January 6.

Since April this year, rolling data for the HSE shows that 54 workers have died in construction-related accidents, of which six workers - accounting for 11 per cent - died after falling through a fragile roof, rooflight or roof vent. In the previous year, to April 2004, six people out of 70 died in similar incidents, accounting for close to 9 per cent of all fatalities.

HSE chief inspector for construction Kevin Myers said: 'Rooflights in new builds should not be used or not be fragile.'

According to the HSE, rooflights are notoriously difficult to spot and it advises that contractors carefully check where they are situated before any work is carried out on a roof.

It recommends that, if work is done near a rooflight, a secure cover should be fitted or a guardrail be erected around it. In some cases it may be necessary to fit a safety net or airbag below the rooflight.