A YOUNG father-of-two plunged through an unsafe fragile roof onto a concrete floor seven metres below at a North Yorkshire farm, suffering life-changing injuries.
Daniel Telford, 23, broke his neck in the fall and suffered shattered vertebrae, broken shoulder blades, several cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, broken arm, fractured pelvis, broken right hip, tendon damage to a foot and both hands, and serious nerve damage.
His employer, Spruce and Hawe Ltd, an agricultural engineering company hired to work on the building in Harrogate, has been fined £12,000 for serious safety failings after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Spruce and Hawe, of Blind Lane, Tockwith, had failed to provide any precautions to protect workers from falls, Harrogate Magistrates were told.
The company director Michael Spruce, of Second Avenue, Wetherby, was fined £3,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 37 of the same Act in his capacity as a director. Magistrates also imposed costs of £513.
Mr Telford, of Long Marston, whose wife was then pregnant, was in hospital for four weeks and had to use a wheelchair for about three months after being discharged. He is still unable to return to work.
Magistrates were told Spruce and Hawe Ltd. had been contracted by the farm’s owner to extend one of the buildings, as it had built the original building several years earlier.
Mr Telford, a labourer, was working with Mr Spruce on the roof of the property replacing rooflights when the fragile roof-sheet he was standing on gave way. He fell through and crashed down on the concrete floor below.
The Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the accident, found the company and Mr Spruce, as director, had failed to take any steps to prevent falls through the roof. Measures could have included netting underneath, safe working platforms, or newer ways of working such as from a platform underneath.
HSE served an immediate prohibition notice on the company stopping any further work at height until precautions were taken to protect from falls or to mitigate the dangers.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Julian Franklin said: “This young man could have been killed by a simple failure to follow well-known systems of work when on a fragile roof. As it is, he sustained severe and multiple injuries that have changed his life.
“A year on, he is struggling to come to terms with the physical and psychological after-effects of this horrendous accident.”
Mr Telford who grew up in Long Marston and attended King James' in Knaresborough, told The Press: "I am just glad it's all over and I can move on."
He said the fall had changed his life.
“After I fell, I was lying on the floor in horrendous pain, but because of fluid building up in my throat, I was shouting for someone to put me in the recovery position. If they hadn’t, I know I could have choked to death."
He said he was conscious throughout the ordeal, and wanted to thank the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and paramedics who rushed to his aid, and hopes to hold a fund-raiser once he is back to full strength.
“Later in hospital, I remember my family coming to see me when I was in resuscitation and can still remember how devastated they all were. I had a number of operations and lots of different surgery. I’d broken my neck, both shoulder blades, several ribs and had a collapsed lung. When I could get off my back in the hospital bed, it was absolutely agonising.
“I also developed hyposensitive skin from the broken neck which meant that the slightest touch, even water or wind on my skin, was painful. It still is, a year later.
“When I came home in a wheelchair, my self-esteem was totally gone as I couldn’t do anything for myself. I felt like a complete wreck. People had to feed me, give me a drink, pass me something to look at as I just couldn’t move my arms or legs.
“Twelve months later, I am slowly getting better and hope to be able to return to work eventually. I am walking again, although my hip often gives way. I feel it has been a constant battle - so many routine and normal day to day tasks are still a challenge.”
He added: "I am walking again now, mostly unaided, but I still have to use walking sticks from time to time. I am still struggling with nightmares and have a lot of trouble sleeping."
Mr Telford said his parents Monica and Terry, along with his two brothers and sister, had been very supportive, and he now hopes to build up his strength and fitness, adding that his 19-month-old son Kayden-Jay helps.
Mr Franklin, who carried out the HSE investigation, added: “It is vital for those people controlling work activities to ensure they follow the correct precautions when anyone is working at height. Relying on standing on the bolts on a fragile roof is criminal, and where we find that sort of behaviour, we will take whatever enforcement or prosecution action we can.
“Workers have the right to return from a day’s work safely and without harm. Employers have a duty of care they must not shirk, or we will take action against them. Where breaches occur and can be attributed to an individual in charge of an operation, we will take action against that individual as well as the company if the breaches so deserve.”
Information about working at height can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height/