A farmer from County Durham has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after a friend, who was helping him out on his farm in Stanley, fell approximately four metres through a barn roof and broke his back.

Leonard Laxton, 64, was helping David Barron to remove roof sheets. Both Mr Laxton and Mr Barron were then manually carrying them across the roof to the edge. Consett Magistrates' Court heard that the pair essentially used scaffold boards as a tightrope to prevent them from stepping onto the roofing material below them.

At some point in the process, Mr Laxton must have either stepped or fallen off the board onto the barn roof, which gave way beneath him. As a result, Mr Laxton broke his back in two places, broke some ribs and suffered bruising to his brain, resulting in a five week stay in hospital.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the measures in place to prevent a fall were insufficient and nothing was in place to prevent a fall over the edge of the roof.

Mr Barron was fined after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said, “Deaths in agriculture are often caused by fragile roofs and advice on precautions to prevent or reduce the risk from falls when working at height and working on fragile material is well publicised. Mr Barron failed to put suitable measures in place to prevent or reduce the risk to both himself and Mr Laxton from falling through or from the barn roof.”

He added, “The risk of sustaining serious injuries could have been dramatically reduced had Mr Barron carried out the work from a mobile platform beneath the roof, or if he had arranged for nets or other equally effective fall protection to be positioned beneath the areas where both he and Mr Laxton had been working.”

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