LIFE-CHANGING injuries left a Morton builder paralysed for life after a tragic accident on a local farm, a court heard last week.
The Standard were in Lincoln Magistrates Court on Wednesday 3rd October to hear about how Paul Blanchard was contracted by Loates Bros Ltd to replace damaged roof panels and skylights on barns at Northorpe Grange and Southorpe Farm in Blyton.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident found that Loates Bros Limited failed to assess Mr Blanchard’s suitability for the job and allowed work to be carried out in an unsafe manner.
Loates Bros Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and were fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,995.
On 18th July 2010, Mr Blanchard fell more than four metres through a fragile skylight at Southorpe Farm shortly after climbing onto the barn roof.
Mr Blanchard, 56, from Morton, broke his back, 18 ribs and suffered severe head injuries and a punctured lung. He was in an induced coma for 10 weeks and in hospital for six months.
Paul now needs a wheelchair after being left paralysed from the chest down. He’s even lost his sense of smell.
Speaking to The Standard, Paul said the lives of him and his family had been changed forever - but that he felt lucky to be alive and keen to move on.
“I was a builder for all of my working life, since my teens,” said Paul.
“Everything is different now, but you’ve just got to learn to live with it. I always enjoyed my job, and there wasn’t a single day where I didn’t want to get up and go. Now I really miss going to work.”
Paul said that as soon as he awoke from his coma, he realised that he had to get on with his new way of life.
“I realised that there was no miracle cure,” he said. “I had the odd dark moments, but we are dealing with this and moving on. You have to remain positive.”
He continued: “I could mope and be depressed but I just don’t see the point - I’ve still got a lot of living left to do.”
Now that the trial is over, Paul said he wants to make others aware and be more cautious about health and safety at work so that they don’t suffer the same fate that he did.
“I hope that this makes people realise the seriousness of health and safety,” he said. “This is a serious accident and I’ll never walk again. It really doesn’t take much for something like this to happen. People need to be a lot more careful and aware of the consequences.”
Paul’s wife Jennifer said that his injuries were hard for the family to cope with at first - but Paul’s strength inspired them all.
“He’s been absolutely amazing through all of this,” she said. “Paul has just been so positive and I don’t think I’d have handled it as well as he has. The whole family is as proud as punch with him, but when it happened, it was horrendous.”
She added: “Things don’t get easier but we are learning to cope with them a lot better.”
- See below for more details about the trial from Lincoln Magistrates Court.
Defending Loates Bros at Lincoln Magistrates Court on Wednesday 3rd October, Mr Antrobus said that the Loates family would like to “express their regret and remorse”.
“No one intended for such an awful tragedy to occur,” said Mr Antrobus.
Mr Antrobus told the court that the family hired Mr Blanchard because they didn’t have the expertise to do the repair work themselves.
“They didn’t realise that Mr Blanchard didn’t posess the expertise as to how this work should be conducted,” said Mr Antrobus. “He did have over 38 years of experience in building work and there was no suggestion that he lacked competency. The family trusted that Mr Blanchard was doing the job properly. They accept in hindsight that this was wrong.”
Passing his sentence, District Judge John Stobart said that the farm failed to make the correct health and safety checks: “Nothing in this case can take away from the tragedy that befell Paul Blanchard,” he said. “I must impose a significant fine that against the injuries suffered by Mr Blanchard seems a piffling let-off.”