Solar Panel Installer Breaks Back in 6m Fall

Image courtesy of franky242 /

Accredited solar installer training includes safe working awareness 

A solar panel installation firm and its technical director have been prosecuted after an employee broke his back when he fell six metres through the roof light of a barn in Northamptonshire.

The 20 year-old man has been unable to work and has suffered constant pain and depression since the incident at Norton Grounds, Daventry on 28 November 2011.

Northampton Crown Court heard that he fell while installing solar panels for Alternative Energy Installations Limited, which has since gone into liquidation.

Soft floor material in the barn, used for horse training, helped to break his fall, but he was still hospitalised for four weeks with a serious back injury. The incident has had a significant impact on his life.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted its technical director Ian Black for failing to control the risk of falling through fragile roof materials.

Crawling boards and safety netting were subsequently used to continue the job after HSE served a Prohibition Notice ordering urgent safety improvements in the aftermath of the fall.

Alternative Energy Installations was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £27,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Ian Black was fined £7,300 and ordered to pay £6,700 in costs after pleading guilty to the same charge at an earlier magistrates’ court appearance.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove said: “This fall could have been fatal and was entirely and easily preventable. As it is, the incident has dramatically affected a young man, starting out in life, and he has not worked again since.

“The director was aware that the roof lights were fragile, but failed to put any measures in place to prevent falls, despite another worker asking if they would be wearing safety harnesses, at which Mr Black laughed.

“The fact that they were able to overcome the problem so simply afterwards, by using crawling boards and safety netting, shows how easy it was to prevent the accident.”

Last year more than 6,300 employees suffered major injuries after falling from height at work. Working on roofs account for almost a quarter of all workers who are killed in falls from heights, and falls through fragile materials like sky lights account for more of these deaths than any other single cause. Many others are seriously injured and are left with life-changing disabilities. Information on preventing falls is available at

Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

For further information on solar training, please visit PASS Ltd’s specialist solar installer course web page.

(Image courtesy of franky242 /