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Southern Solar Ltd and Sonya French have been fined after a worker, working at height, fell through a fragile barn roof, suffering life-changing injuries.

Brighton Crown Court heard how a farmer had contacted Southern Solar Ltd to fit 100 solar panels. The company subcontracted the fitting of the panels to a rope access company, Sky High Rope Access Ltd, run by Sonya French. During the installation, two operatives went onto the roof intending to run a rope along the ridge of the barn and attach it to a large tree, but the roof gave way. One of the operatives, David Mattison, 23, fell approximately 8m through the roof. He spent six months in hospital and is now in a wheelchair, unable to walk.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found the person put in charge of planning and supervising the work had never previously worked on a fragile roof. The investigation also found the method statement prepared was totally inadequate as rope access is generally not suitable to be used on fragile roofs.

Southern Solar Ltd, which previously traded at Phoenix House, North Street, Lewes, was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4 (1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company, who have gone into administration, were fined £1.

Sonya French of East Wing, Thorpe St Andrews, Norwich, was found guilty of breaching Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. She was given a 20 month custodial sentence suspended for  two years and ordered to carry out 240hrs unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay costs of £5000.

HSE inspector Amanda Huff said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the David Mattison could have been prevented.”

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