Local Authority Handed Financial Sanction After Janitor Fatality

What Happened In The Case

At the time of the accident, the person at the center of proceedings had been employed in his capacity as a janitor and primarily located at school premises. All appeared to be progressing well. However, matters deteriorated in August  2018 when the Janitor was the only member of staff on duty. He appears to have been sanitizing the roof of a storage facility designed for the use of bicycles with a ladder, brush, and cleaning fluid. All seemed fine until the janitor appears to have suffered a significant fall of just shy of three meters from the ladder and landed on the hard concrete ground located below. Sadly the janitor suffered horrendous injuries and passed away as result. 

What Did The Health and Safety Executive Say?

The industry Regulator, the Health and Safety Executive felt compelled to launch a probe into what had taken place in the case. When it took an objective observation of the evidence submitted by both sides, it concluded that the respective Council had neglected its duty to use its efforts to make sure that the sanitizing of the bicycle storage area was not planned appropriately, not given the correct amount of oversight by senior members of staff, conducted safely via an acceptable way of working and in compliance with the Work at Height Regulations 2005.       

Feet to the Fire?

The matter progressed to the Magistrates Court in Brighton in late February 2023 and when the Local Authority entered admissions to violations of Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations which were enacted in 2005. This regulation places legal obligations upon those businesses employing staff who work at height. In this regard, they must make sure the work-related activities conducted at height are conducted in a reasonably safe manner. Employers must also professionally plan the work and properly oversee the regulated work activities to comply with the respective Regulation 4. The non-compliance with Regulation 4 appears on the facts of the case to have been taken seriously by the Brighton and Hove Magistrates Court and to send out a message to the wider community that this unprofessional conduct will not be tolerated, the Magistrates saw it fit to impose a meaty financial sanction in the amount of just over seventy thousand pounds.   

Lessons Learned? 

Local Authorities and all businesses who have responsibility for the maintenance of roofs need to strongly consider the likelihood of significant injuries being sustained after falls from height. To mitigate the risk of further incidents involving falls from height the industry regulator recommended local authorities and businesses finding themselves in this situation consider taking the following steps: 

  • putting plans in place
  • identifying reasonably foreseeable risks
  • ensuring there are measures implemented for oversight of the work-related activities and 
  • being sure that safe systems are enacted and maintained       

to reduce the probability of future roof falls from taking place.     


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