Firm fined £40K for breaching safety laws

A CLEANING company has been fined £40,000 for breaching health and safety regulations after a worker cleaning a roof fell five metres onto a patio and fractured a number of ribs.

The Royal Court
The Royal Court

Jose Calaca and another employee had been sent to finish a job cleaning the roof of a property in St Saviour on 12 July last year.

Mr Calaca began cleaning the surface of a sloped roof but, when water flowed down the roof, he went to move his feet, slipped and fell to the patio.

Sonnic Ltd, which operates in Jersey and Guernsey, admitted an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Jersey Law, as did senior supervisor Nelio Mendonca.

Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq told the Royal Court on Friday: ‘It is clear both the company and Mr Mendonca failed to provide adequate equipment or take appropriate measures to control the risk of working at height.

‘How far short of the appropriate standard did Mr Mendonca fall? It appears in this case he fell substantially short and this is a serious breach of the law.’

Attorney General Robert MacRae explained that Sonnic Supports Solutions Ltd had been contacted in April last year to clean roofs of a property in St Saviour that were overgrown with moss.

A quote was given but, due to issues about potential asbestos spreading, the owners decided not to have the garage roof cleaned and to have one side of the house cleaned instead. Mr Calaca and his colleague Ascensao Homem were sent by Mr Mendonca to carry out the work.

They climbed onto the roof with an extension ladder, spraying onto the roof surface, with Mr Calaca walking on the roof.

Two days later Mr Mendonca sent the pair back to the property to finish off the job. Mr Calaca ascended on the ladder with a wet-brush system and climbed onto the sloped roof. As he began cleaning, the water flowed down and as he moved his feet, he slipped and fell to the patio.

He said: ‘There was no scaffolding or nothing to stop a person from hurting themselves or falling. I was not wearing a harness.’

He was taken to hospital following the fall and released the following day with bad bruising and four broken ribs.

The Health and Safety Inspectorate was only made aware of the incident when an application for a short-term incapacity allowance was made by Mr Calaca.

Company director Duarte Fernandes was interviewed under caution in January, and said in a prepared statement that the workers were not instructed to go to the property and the company was in the process of booking scaffolding.

However, no evidence in the form of an invoice was found.

Mr Mendonca was interviewed and in a statement, he reiterated that the pair were not instructed to go and work before a scaffold tower had been put in place.

In the quote, Mr Mendonca said a scaffold tower would be needed, but the Attorney General added that did not happen.

It was also noted that after the incident Mr Mendonca arrived at the scene, and told the other worker to complete the job without implementing any new safety measures.

Mr MacRae said: ‘Mr Calaca suffered serious injury which fortunately was not much worse, as a result of his employer and their manager failing to provide adequate training equipment and take appropriate measures to control risks to which he was exposed.

‘There was a disregard for safety such that no measures at all were taken to mitigate obvious risks.’

Advocate Adam Harrison, defending, said this was the company’s first health and safety issue since it began in 1996.

He said this was a one-off incident and that lessons were to be learned and new measures were already being put in place.

The company was ordered to pay the £40,000 fine within two months, along with £5,000 costs. Mr Mendonca was fined £3,000.

Jurats Collette Crill and Steven Austin-Vautier were sitting.

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