Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 13 April 2016, the two workers were investigating a leak from the roof at Karro Foods’ Malton site when the accident happened.
During their investigation of the leak, the employees found that the roof contained several rooflights they were not made aware of. The workers were walking closely together and both stood on the same roof light, which consequently fell through due to the weight.
One worker suffered four fractured ribs, a punctured lung and muscular contusions to his outer right thigh. The other suffered a fractured skull, muscular injuries to his right leg and injuries inside his ear, which caused ongoing problems with his balance, memory and mental health.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the rooflights were not visible – due to a build-up of moss and dirt that had accumulated over the years – and had not been made common knowledge to staff at the site.
Karro Foods Ltd of Hugden Way, Norton Grove Industrial Estate, Malton, Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £1.86m and ordered to pay £8,019 in costs.
Commenting after the hearing, HSE inspector Mark Slater said: “This was a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to provide adequate controls against the risks arising from working at height.
Consideration for older buildings
“Consideration of roof fragility and rooflights, visible or not, should be made, especially on older buildings.”
A Karro Food Limited spokesperson said: “Karro Food Limited accepts the fine imposed by the court following the Health and Safety Executive’s investigation and the company’s early guilty plea in this case.
“Although the company is disappointed with the fine being set at the upper level of high culpability, given its previous positive record, good character, compliance with the HSE during the investigation and prompt action taken to make improvements to our existing systems and facilities following the incident, we are grateful to the court for recognising these factors in its judgement. Karro Food has, and continues to, support the two valued members of staff injured in this incident.”
There has been a growing trend of larger food and drink manufacturers being fined more than £1m for health and safety offences over the past couple of years.
In September 2017, convenience food manufacturer Greencore was fined £1m for safety failings, after a contractor died after falling from a stepladder.
Meanwhile, in July that same year, Warburtons was fined £1.9m after a worker’s arm was trapped against a running conveyor belt – its second fine of more than £1m in 2017.