Electrical contractor Austin Gregg has been fined after a teenage apprentice fell four metres through a fragile rooflight at a farm in Leyburn, North Yorkshire.

On 26 June 2013, the 16-year-old apprentice from Masham fell from a barn where solar panels were being installed, badly bruising his back. The incident was investigated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which today (14 April) prosecuted Mr Gregg – trading as Gregg Electrical – at Northallerton Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates were told that Mr Gregg had two apprentices working with him that day and was on the roof of another shed planning the fitting work at the time of the accident. The 16-year-old went onto the roof without a harness after he was asked to fetch a tool by the other apprentice.

HSE’s investigation found that Mr Gregg had taken some precautions, but they were either insufficient or incomplete. As well as partially covered, fragile rooflights, harnesses had been provided with lanyards but fixing points were not adequate or tested.

Mr Gregg was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £505 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

“This young man certainly had a close shave. Falling from height remains one of the biggest causes of death and major injury,” said HSE inspector Julian Franklin after the hearing.

“It is crucial that employers put safety precautions in place for working at height, whether the job lasts 10 minutes or 10 days. The risks of working on fragile roofs are well recognised and there is no excuse for putting workers at unnecessary risk of serious injury, or even death.

“It is particularly important to ensure that vulnerable young people, new to the working environment, are given very close supervision, clear instructions and not exposed to risks that they may not be able to envisage.”

Free guidance and information on safe working at height is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls