Call for warning sign as fall kills worker

Mark Simpson
Mark Simpson
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A CORONER said warning signs costing “virtually nothing” should be erected to prevent the repetition of a tragedy in which a Sheffield electrician fell through a fragile roof to his death.

Sheffield Coroner Chris Dorries said he would write to company bosses and the landlord of the warehouse where Mark Simpson, aged 43, died in March 2009.

An inquest jury found there had been no warning signs, control measures or risk assessment to stop Mr Simpson getting onto the flimsy loading bay roof at IDS Logistics UK on Kettlebridge Road, Darnall.

The 10-member jury returned a narrative verdict which said Mr Simpson, a self-employed electrician, of Bocking Lane, Greenhill, had made a “joint decision” to go up to the roof with IDS facilities manager Michael Smith.

Mr Simpson, who did regular work for the company, crashed through the roof when he stepped on a fragile strip of perspex which acted as a lighting strip.

He fell more than 30ft and died at the Northern General Hospital of multiple injuries, including haemorrhages in his chest and brain.

The electrician had been on the roof with Mr Smith.

Mr Smith asked his opinion on whether another company’s quote for clearing gutters was too high and whether the cleaning firm needed an elevated platform.

The jury of five women and five men found the fragile areas of the roof were not “clearly recognisable.” There were no warning signs.

Mr Dorries told lawyers representing IDS Logistics he would use powers under the Coroners Act 1988 to make recommendations to stop a similar tragedy in future.

He said access to the roof should be limited, the ladder secured and signs put up to ensure workmen on the safer lower roof were not tempted on to the loading bay roof.

He said: “It is abundantly clear in my mind that there needs to be a letter to the landlord and the company.

“I am not seeking to make any decision about who is responsible. But it must surely be the case that someone must do something about it.

“If someone is given access to the lower roof they may just think they have a good reason to go to the loading bay roof. What is a sign going to cost? Virtually nothing.”

Sheffield Council environmental health officer Michelle Garrigan said signs were unnecessary in law because access to the roof is now strictly monitored. The ladder to the roof is now locked up.

Mr Dorries said: “May I, respectfully, disagree with you totally. I can just imagine a contractor working on the lower roof and believing they have access to the loading bay roof. For the sake of a few pounds that could be averted.”

Environmental health officers are investigating whether IDS broke health and safety rules, for a possible prosecution in the criminal courts.