The director of a floors and carpets company has been ordered to pay more than £130,000 after pleading guilty to contravening Working at Heights Regulations.

It followed an incident in which a contractor fell 30ft through a skylight suffering life changing injuries.

Lookmaan Namaji, who is a joint director of Floors 'n' Carpets Ltd, based in Blackburn, was told he has 90 days in which to pay a £96,000 fine and £36,919.75 in costs after appearing at Preston Crown Court on Monday.

The case, brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), relates to an incident in May 2020, whereby Namaji had contracted a roofer called Nizamuddin Gorji to carry out repair works to the roof of the Floors 'n' Carpets warehouse, the Cobble Building in Gate Street, Blackburn.

Preston Crown Court heard how Gorji enlisted two of his friends to carry out the repairs, which included over-cladding the existing roof, and work began on May 13, 2020.

A ladder, being used to access the roof, was a foot too short, with the men having to crawl on their bellies and chests to be able to reach the surface they were working on.

The court was also told how none of the men had been given any PPE, nor any working from heights training, and one of the workers even took his shoes and socks off while on the roof so as to ascertain a better grip as he kept slipping on the surface in his shoes.

On May 14, one of the employees, Taj Zahir, fell through the roof sustaining severe life changing injuries to his pelvis, arm, knee and face and has since undergone extensive surgery.

Gorji was not present at the time of the fall, and did not report the incident to the HSE, nor did Floors 'n' Carpets.

The firm claimed it was not even aware the work to the roof had begun, nor was it aware any of the contractors were even on site that day - claiming that due to the Covid pandemic and being in the midst of the first national lockdown, there was a skeleton staff of around seven people present on the whole site. 

The incident was reported to the HSE by Mr Zahir's uncle, who then reported it to the police. 

An investigation by the HSE found Gorji failed to adequately plan the roof work or consider the equipment required.

There was no scaffolding in place around the building or under-slinging nets, covering fragile skylights and asbestos cement sheets. He had not completed any health and safety training and did not adequately train the operatives he employed.

In a hearing in July last year, Gorji, of Woodbine Road, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9 (2) and 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and received a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to pay costs of £3,000.

A further case against Floors 'n' Carpets ran alongside Gorji's prosecution, with the company seeking to dismiss the charge of contravening regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Heights Regulations.

However, in April this year, Floors 'n' Carpets pleaded guilty to the single charge and submitted their basis of plea - that they did not know any work had started. 

The HSE claim that in hiring Gorji, Floors 'n' Carpets, which has an annual turnover of more than £10 million, failed to properly check the risk assessments and method of construction statement, and in doing so failed to ensure working from heights was properly planned, therefore failing to undertake their due diligence.

Prosecuting, Rosalind Emsley-Smith said: "The HSE accepted that Floors 'n' Carpets were unaware that Gorji's workers were on the roof on May 14, 2020.

"However, the risk assessment was to a low standard, and the method statement control measures which would have prevented Mr Zahir's fall from height would only have been implemented after his fall. That's a dangerous way to organise work at height. 

"The method statement did not identify systems of work and the company did not operate any signing in or out policy which would have alerted Floors 'n' Carpets to the fact Gorji or his workers were on site - this was a major oversight of them managing their own premises."

In a victim personal statement following his discharge from hospital, Mr Zahir said he struggled to get up and down the stairs, and had trouble sleeping at night.

He said: "I had a full time carer, and was feeling very upset during this time.

"My family were upset because of the situation and I became dependant on others, thinking that my life was meaningless.

"I used to spend all day thinking, spending my days as a prisoner, sometimes thinking about ending my own life.

"Neither Gorji or Floors 'n' Carpets gave me any financial help, I didn't even get paid for the work I did on the day of the accident. 

"Me becoming injured has had an affect on my wife and children in Afghanistan, I have not been back in three years, and now the Taliban government won't allow women to leave unaccompanied.

"I can move around in a wheelchair but the physical and mental pain is still there, I am very concerned about the future of my family and myself."

In mitigation, Ian Simkin said Floors 'n' Carpets was not aware Mr Gorji had started work on the roof, but had expected to be told when work commenced.

He said: "They had been satisfied that he was a competent roofer, and not being roofers themselves, did not know if the risk assessments provided by Gorji had been good enough.

"Gorji's actions were reckless and cavalier, and the company did not know that he submitted assessments that were not of a high standard, but they admit they should have checked this before work commenced."

Sentencing Namaji and Floors 'n' Carpets, Judge Philip Parry said: "It must have been obvious from the outset that a high level of planning was needed for this job.

"Gorji prepared a risk assessment and method statement that were both wholly inadequate, and I said this to him when I sentenced him last year - he came within a whisker of being sent to prison.

"No one from Floors 'n' Carpets was aware that anyone was on site, there were no observations and I have been told this is because of lockdown.

"It is remarkable Mr Zahir did not die immediately and there is now a civil claim against the company on behalf of him. 

"Your failure to properly plan this work is significant and it's because of these failures that you did not know that they were there working.

"I accept you have no knowledge of roof work and for that you employed a contractor but that does not absolve you or the company of its responsibility to inspect the documents provided by the contractor. 

"It's true you were not responsible for putting this man on the roof but the failure to plan and check who was on site and check the method statement lead me to conclude that there was significant harm done here."

Floors 'n' Carpets were ordered to pay a total of £132, 919.75 by September 19.

Civil proceedings against the company are ongoing.