School caretaker becomes disabled after he fell few days before retirement

Just five days before he retired, a school caretaker has suffered severe injuries when he fell through roof four meters in Bradford.

The 62 year old David O’Hanlon had worked for eight years at Beckfoot School in Bingley but decided to retire early after the closure of the site and the replacement by a new facility. He decided to stay on so as to supervise the old building being cleared and ensuring that all classrooms were vacant. Last year on 22 June, David was fixing a new light bulb onto a void on the roof of the old building in order to empty it safely before being demolished. He stepped on an area of the ceiling that was un-boarded, which made him fall four meters to the passage beneath.

He fractured his hip and broke his heel. He required the insertion of three screws in his hip and will likely require a hip replacement and advanced surgery on his heel as well so as to add plates and screws. Doctors advised him that he may suffer from severe arthritis and may not be able to regain his full mobility.

Investigations conducted by the HSE on the incident found Bradford Council, which owned Beckfoot School, did not estimate the risks within the old building during the clearance. Inspector Morag Irwin said that the Council had a responsibility to assess fully the perils in a structure and make sure that workers are safe as they perform their daily duties. He added that that meant provision of necessary information or offering training where necessary.

The Inspector continued by saying that because the core purpose was to get rid of all rubbish before demolition, the roof void should have been left well alone and allows the demolition plans go ahead regardless.

On 17 October, Bradford Council appeared before the Bradford Magistrates’ Court. The Council pleaded guilty in breach of s2 (1) of the HSWA 1974. The Court ordered a fine of $15,000 to be paid by the Council and ordered it to pay $5667 as costs incurred.

After the hearing at the court, Inspector Irwin added that the incident could have been avoided completely. He said that the incident has dashed the hopes and expectations of Mr. O’Hanlon to retire healthily.

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