Hertfordshire firm Nature's Power has been prosecuted for safety breaches after a trainee employee suffered multiple fractures in an eight-metre fall from a roof.

The 22 year old from High Wycombe, who does not wish to be named, broke two vertebrae, his left ankle and wrist, fractured his pelvis and tore ligaments in the incident in Highbury, North London on 3 December 2012.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) last week (7 August) prosecuted Nature’s Power, after identifying a number of safety failings by the company.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told the firm had been fitting a flue liner down the chimney as part of installation work for a wood-burning stove. The trainee was attempting to slide together an extendable roof ladder while balanced at the top of the access ladder against the house.

HSE’s investigation found that the access ladder was not long enough to clear the guttering and so didn’t extend to a point where he could step off safely. When the roof ladder began to slip away in his hands, it pulled him off the access ladder. As there was nothing for him to hold on to help him regain his balance, he fell three storeys to the ground below, sustaining serious injuries.

Nature’s Power, of High Street, Rickmandsworth, was fined a total of £30,000 and ordered to pay a further £5,840 in costs after being found guilty in absentia of two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Keith Levart said: "It was clear the access ladder had been used unsafely and that Nature’s Power had failed to plan the work properly, taking into account the specific issues that arose from using that site.

"If used correctly, access and roof ladders can provide safe access to chimneys. However, this one could not clear the guttering, which led to this entirely preventable incident and a trainee worker suffering serious injuries. It is only a matter of good fortune that these injuries were not fatal.

"There is no shortage of advice and information about safe use of ladders. Where necessary, there is ancillary equipment available such as adjustable ladder stays, and straps for securing it to the building."

The latest HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011 and 2012. Further information on safe working at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls.