Ian Thomas Associates

Health and Safety – Ireland case law update – falls from height – suspended sentences

On Friday, 29th June 2012, Patrick Rooney, a roofing contractor, was sentenced to two 18 month suspended prison sentences for health and safety offences. Two of Mr Rooney’s employees were seriously injured when they fell 8 metres to the ground whilst removing asbestos roof sheeting from premises in Dublin in July 2007. There were no fall protection mechanisms in place at the time of the accident.

Working on roofs is perhaps an obvious example of working at height that requires steps to be taken to avoid risk of injury. However work at height involves work in any place where any employee could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Not so obvious examples of work at height include using a kick stool or stepladder in a stock-room or library and using trestles and ladders to paint or clean a room. In all cases of working at height employers must undertake a risk assessment and ensure that all work is properly planned and that all equipment is suitable for the particular task.

Employers should do all that is reasonably practicable to prevent anyone falling a distance liable to cause personal injury and they should consider the following issues:

  • work at height should be avoided where this is reasonably practicable;
  • if work at height cannot be avoided  use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls; and
  • where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.
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