David Mattison, 23, fell approximately eight metres through a fragile barn roof, leaving him unable to walk. Image: Flickr/Elliott Brown

Southern Solar and the boss of a firm it subcontracted to carry out an installation have been fined after a 23 year-old operative fell around eight metres through a fragile roof, suffering life-changing injuries that left him in a wheelchair.

Brighton Crown Court heard how a farmer had contacted the now defunct Southern Solar to fit 100 solar panels. The company subcontracted the fitting of the panels to a rope access company, Sky High Rope Access, which was run by Sonya French at the time. Sky High Rope Access was later dissolved July 2016.

During the installation, two workers 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 and spent six months in hospital and is now unable to walk.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the person put in charge of planning and supervising the work had never previously worked on a fragile roof, while the method statement was found to have been ‘totally inadequate’.

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.”

Southern Solar was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4 (1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which ensures proper planning when working at height. As the company collapsed in 2015 two months after that year’s feed-in tariff consultation was published – before being acquired by Caplor Energy – it was fined just £1.

French however, who was found guilty of breaching Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was handed a 20 month custodial sentence suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work, and was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.