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News added on 29.05.2019

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Risk assessment

Lack of safe system led to volunteer's death

A volunteer at a football club died after falling through a fragile roof whilst carrying out odd jobs. What responsibility did the club have for the volunteer’s safety?

C volunteered at St Albans City Football and Athletic Club, carrying out “odd jobs” over many years. The 71 year old was repairing part of the roof of the club’s Clarence Park ground in July 2017, when he fell through some fragile roof sheeting onto the terrace steps below and suffered fatal injuries.

When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, it found that the club had failed to put a suitable system in place to authorise or supervise maintenance work. Volunteers were provided with keys, so they had uncontrolled access to the ground. As a result, the work at height was unsupervised and could be carried out in an unsafe manner.

The club owed a duty to C as a volunteer to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that he was not exposed to health and safety risks, mirroring its duty to safeguard its employees.

St Albans City Football and Athletic Club Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching its duty to safeguard non-employees under s.3 Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay the same again in costs.

Employers who use volunteers must ensure their safety, just as they do for their employees. In giving volunteers uncontrolled access to the ground to undertake “odd jobs”, this football club failed in that duty. Work on a fragile roof should be risk assessed and only carried out by trained people (whether volunteers or employees) with appropriate control measures in place.

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