A farmer has been fined after a friend broke his back in a fall while helping him out on his County Durham farm.
Leonard Laxton, 64, was seriously injured when he fell approximately four metres through a barn roof at New Acres Farm, South Moor, Stanley.
Consett Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Laxton, also of South Moor, was helping David Barron, who owned the farm, as a favour.
The pair were removing roof sheets and were manually carrying them across the roof to the edge, effectively using scaffold boards as a tightrope to prevent them from stepping onto the potentially fragile roofing material beneath them.
During this process Mr Laxton either stepped or fell from a scaffolding board onto the roof, which collapsed beneath him.
He broke his back in two places as well as breaking some ribs and suffering bruising to his brain. He spent five weeks in hospital.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that that the measures in place to prevent a fall through the roof were wholly insufficient.
It also identified that there was nothing in place to prevent those working on the roof from falling from its edge.
David Barron, 50, of New Acres Farm, South Moor, Stanley, County Durham was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said: “Deaths in agriculture are often caused by fragile roofs and advice on precautions to prevent or reduce the risk from falls when working at height and working on fragile material is well publicised.
“Mr Barron failed to put suitable measures in place to prevent or reduce the risk to both himself and Mr Laxton from falling through or from the barn roof.
“The risk of sustaining serious injuries could have been dramatically reduced had Mr Barron carried out the work from a mobile platform beneath the roof, or if he had arranged for nets or other equally effective fall protection to be positioned beneath the areas where both he and Mr Laxton had been working.”